Travel Journal Entry #13: Dubrovnik, Kings Landing

I’m quite sure the city of Dubronivk and specially the Old Town here will go down as one of the few grand stops on our entire journey through Europe. There has not been anything as remarkable in comparison that we have encountered on our adventure so far than this Croatian gem. Dubrovnivk, also known as Kings Landing for the Game Of Thrones fans, took us by suprise and made us fall in love with its’ charms.

Look at that view. Dubrovnik Old Town and the sea.

We travelled from Bari to Dubrovnik by a ferry cruise ship that was a keen memento to the 90’s. Old sea biscuit that had seen plenty of years on the open sea. I had ranted earlier about the social culture of Italy and the waiting game to enter the ferry ship was a bittersweet example about it. It took us 5 hours to get through the port terminal to the ferry ship and the departure was delayed by over two hours. The clock was roughly past midnight when we managed to crawl into our cabin for some good ol’ fashioned sleep. 

Arrival port at Dubrovnik.
The ferry arrived to Dubronivk at 8 o’clock in the morning so we had plenty of time to seek our wat to our hotel. Unfortunately the port was far away from the Dubrovnik old town so we hopped on a bus and started paying attention to our surroundings. Soon our eyes caught first glimpses of the old town and the massive walls surrounding the city. Ten minutes later we had found our hotel and left our luggage there.
The main street Stradun in Dubrovnik Old Town.

The old town is not on the larger side even though the city has plenty of side-alleys tp choose where you can find restaurants and various shops. You can easily get a bit lost when wandering around the city but you can always route back to the the main street that goes through the middle of the town. However the city itself and the oceanic views everywhere make you plainly forget that time even exists.

As our hotel room was not ready in the morning we decided to take the cable car up the mountain side and see the spectacular views from up there. Departure station was only 10 minute walk away. The ticket price was 140 Kuna (roughly 18,50€) but well worth it. From up there you could see the whole peninsula clearly and your lungs thank you for the fresh air. Truly a mesmerizing place.

Cable car wohooo!

I could tell you a lot of more about our visit to Dubrovnik but I  don’t want to spoil everything for you. All I can say is that visiting this place is highly recommended. Spending the last two days in Dubrovnik has given me personally a lot of energy to keep on going on this adventure and I can’t wait to see more. Next stop will be the Croatian city of Split! 

Have a great night!

– George

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Travel Journal Entry #12: Every-Bari Dance Now

My advice to anyone to traveling in Italy: if you have already seen the big cities here and their main attractions, relocate asap to the smaller cities. The true italian lifestyle doesn’t really shine in a busy colossal city like Rome but you learn to appreciate it in a city that has a slower pulse rate.

Castles in the sand.

That is why I like Bari far better than the others. You find a lot of good restaurants and they have empty tables to swoop in without reservation. The streets are not too crowded to let pickpockets snatch easy targets. The city is easy to walk as you don’t have to bet your life on the line every time you cross the street (red light means “go but be very careful” to italians rather than “stop”).

Beach of Bari. Guess the season has ended.

What’s better for a northener like me, the coastal city has slighly lower temperatures due to the ocean breeze. Even 31′ degrees celsius (87.8 fahrenheit) feels a lot colder than in the main land. There are some sights to see (couple of churches, castle and other monuments) so you can spend a day or two exploring them. The beach almost fully covers the coastline and you can sit freely on a bench breathing fresh air.

Chuuuurch. Walked in and there was service in action.

I am rather conflicted do I like Italy or not, as during our stay here we ran into minor trouble, theft, traffic violations, unworkable public transportation, scammers and a lot of unlogical reasons how things work around here in Italy. The quality of restaurants, friendly people, street musicians and general ambience in smaller cities like Bari balance the scales.

Perhaps I have to ponder about my final verdict when I get back home. Tonight we’ll say goodbye to Italy and set sail to Croatia. First stop will be Dubronivk, also known as Kings Landing from hit-series Game of Thrones.

Enjoy your saturday, you know I will!

– George

Travel Journal Entry #11: The Tasty Tables of Naples


If you’re desperately hungry for a culinary orgasm, Naples will accordingly set you a meal you cannot forget. Apologies for the choice of words, kids. I can only assure you that I won’t order a sloppy pizza in Finland after this adventure. Because just like any breathtaking and luscious relationship that ended too swiftly, you will be comparing the next one against the latter. You shall be disappointed surely.

Mmmmm-mouth watering.

The Naples is notoriously famous for the pizza which is heated to perfection in special made napolian oven. The topping ingredients and the menú choices are carefully designed to bake a flavourful combination which makes you doubt the culinary standards in your home country.

As a city Naples has a rough center. The collection of thrashes and current behavior regarding waste is to let it lay in the gutter. It makes a traveller sad to see thrashed streets in a city like Naples. The flood of immigrants from Africa (my guess, I could be wrong) have a visible effect on the city as well. A lot of police patrols everywhere and the street merchants have stands on almost every corner. 

EU thrash. Not going to finals.

My first advice is to leave the city center next to the railway station and go a bit further to see mesmerizing views of the city. You can do this by traveling with metro to Castello Sant’Elmo. A enourmous castle on top of a hill with a breathaking view. If you don’t want to pay the entrance fee you can still gaze the city from the platform next to it.

Whew, what a view!

If your soul wants to wander to the ocean, another spectacular view can be obtained from the coast of Napoli. Free entrance to the Castell dell’Ovo is a big plus and you can easily spend hours there to scout the wonderful coast and the boats in action.

Panorama view from Castello dell’Ovo.

Since you’re in Naples you might want to visit the famous Pompeii city that was buried with it’s inhabitants in volcanic ashes in 79 AD due to the eruption of Vesuvius volcano. It’s a cruel reminder that we humans are sometimes powerless in the hands of nature. As the citizens of Pompeii were buried in the volcanic ashes, reserchers were able to fill the gaps in the ash with plaster. As a result we have now detailed molds of the very body positions of Pompeii citizens when they died in the disaster.

Requescat in Pace, young one.

Tomorrow morning we will say our goodbyes to Naples and do a quick one day tour in the northern coast of Italy, Bari. Then we will set sail and arrive to the Kings Landing to play a little Game Of Thrones! Croatia ahoy! 

Have a awesome day!

– George

Travel Journal Entry #10: All Roads Led To Rome

You are going to hate me for this travel entry the same way I will hate myself for writing this. This will be a bit of an angry rant my beloved readers. Blame it on the heat.

My two day experience of Rome is a bit of an homage to the negative history of the once grandiose city. Unfortunately it seems that Rome has not been able to amend the defective mentality and social constructs of the society that enabled its fall to ruins in the first place.

The Pantheon. Visit inside free of charge.
Before I continue any further I want to make myself clear that my homeland is not perfect in any way imaginable. We have many current flaws in our current society and we have no shame in admitting that. But we do our damn best to fix the issues at hand.
As per my experience as a traveller I feel like the people in Rome just let things be broken. Then everybody clears their conscious by pretending it’s “the way of things just work around here”. 

Fontana de Trevi. Water fountain loaded with tourists.

My visit to Rome started with a way too crowded bus to our hotel and a sloppy but oppressive pickpocket attempt. An old man right behind me started to feel me up and search my empty pockets. I immediately slapped away his hands and watched him crawl further away in the bus. We exited the bus on the next stop and took the metro instead. Jeez.

The incident got me paranoid of other strangers pretty quickly. I had to abandon my cosy shorts because the front pockets were too easy to pickpocket and to change into heavier capri shorts which had more secure pockets. Have you ever wore jean-fabric in 35′ Celsius heat? Not pleasant at all.

Vittorio Emanuele monument. Yehaw.

First off the public transportation in Rome is laughable at best. I had heard the tales that one cannot trust the timetables in Italy but in Rome the timetables are literally non-existent. The busses arrive to your stop when they feel like it. You might wait 45 minutes and still see zero busses coming your way. It’s depressing when you see even the locals give up and just walk away from the bus stop. 

The old history, architecture and monuments of Rome and the Vatican city are fascinating but the general loss of logic in supermarkets, elevators, buildings and the people itself eat away the experience. 

Quick example: How many doors one elevator should need to be efficient and easy to use? The correct answer apparently in Italy is three. A door that opens the elevator shaft and two more doors that slide open inside the elevator. If even one of the doors is not 100% in place, the elevator will not work.

The Square of Vatican City.

If something has hit the sweet spot in Rome it’s definitely the food. The restaurants serve amazing delicasies and even a simple pasta carbonara will make you miss the chefs that prepared that heaven for you. Cafeterias will serve you fresh cappucino and tasty pastries for couple of bucks. If you are thinking about food-traveling, please do keep Rome in mind.

Yo Xzibit, Pimp my Pope Chariot.

Tomorrow will be our last full day in Rome and we will spend it by exploring the historical amphiteather Colosseum and Forum Romanum. Oh and shopping for a new mens shoulder bag as my “old” one broke down today. Never buy anything from Zalando kids. 

On Tuesday we will continue our journey and travel to Naples! Summon positive vibes and stay cool y’all! Good night!

– George

Travel Journal Entry #9: The Summer Heat in Firenze 

Great news travelers and travel-dreamers alike, Firenze is a quite a charming city and I will reminisce the days spent here. When we arrived to Firenze last Monday we were eager to discover more Italy. Firenze did not hold back as the sun set the temperatures even higher than in Milano and the average day temperature was a rough 34 degrees of Celsius (93 degrees of Fahrenheit for you ‘Mericans).

In order to survive the heat we scrubbed ourselves with sunscreen lotion as best that we could, put some light clothes on and headed out to explore the sights. First things first – apparently you cannot spell Firenze without mentioning the Basilica Di Santa Maria Novella. This huge church sprouts from the middle of a tight plaza and it’s a arduous challenge to get a good photograph of it.

First of many tries to photograph.

A closer inspection revealed a green marble decoration and a lot of detailed paintings and sculptured persons from the Bible. I’ve been wondering the past few weeks how in hell (pun intended) they installed the gigantic doors on all these classical churches? Who gets to walk from them? The Pope?

The devil is in the details. Also, Hodor.
The one thing that pleases me the most in Firenze is the fact that water is near. Yes, there is a river that goes through the city and it makes all the difference. The tight corridors and narrow streets of Firenze mix in splendidly with an open scenery showing the mountain sides in the distance.
Ambience of water, light and beyond.

As we knew that Firenze is close to the leaning city of Pisa, we had to go there to check ourselves how the italians built things in the past. Fun fact – it took three fully built floors of Pisa tower before they noticed something was wrong. After that the general decision was “Eh,  it’s hardly an issue, lets continue. The end result is millions of tourists per year pushing air with their hands at the Pisa plaza.

Leaning Pisa tower and the fix-er-uppers.

Tomorrow we will take the circus back on the road and the destination this time will be the historical jewel, Rome. Our only hope is that we don’t have to whisper the words “Et tu, Brutus” during our four day stay there. As Julius Ceasar once said, alea iacta est! Sleep well!

– George

Travel Journal Entry #7: Co$y in $witzerland

Here is a quote you can pass on to the future generations.

No man has lived to the fullest before paying 15,00€ for a happy meal that makes the poor generation sad.

– George Carcain

 If you were wise enough to read between the lines, Switzerland is ugh.. well.. not cheap for common traveler. Hence we decided to spend two nights in Bern.

However if I was a retired CEO I’d might pack my bags and move here. The views are spectacular all around the city of Bern and the Swiss people more than friendly. Various restaurants sprout from the plazas and the architecture reminds of medieval times. There are also bears.

Bern bear saying what’s up.

Yeah, this place has everything. A vibrant city centre that has all necessary services for the citizens and if you’re growing tired of the masses, take a quick metro-train from Bern railway station and you can watch a cornfield grow in peace.

Corn growing next to the Deisswil station.

Just when you thought there might not be anything else to see, perhaps I can mention the turquise-blue river that runs through the city? Oh yes. Heights, camera, action.

Aare river captured from a bridge.

Truthfully it takes about 2-3 hours to scout the city but if you happen to find a captivating spot you can easily forget where you were going in the first place. That is why you need to go to see the Berns famous Zytglogge-clock tower at the town centre.

The clock is ticking..

Before you know it.. it’s time to catch the next train. Tomorrow we happily start the Italy-leg of our Europe tour! Milan, Firenze, Roma, Bologna and other great cities await us! Have a amazing night and stay tuned for Italy!

– George

Travel Journal Entry #4: Brussel Sprouts

Yesterday the alarm clock woke us up early for a quick checkout from our hostel in Amsterdam. The morning did not turn so great as the clerk at the Amsterdam train station told that the express train to Bryssels had already been booked full. Lesson to be learned here, kids.

The plan was to take two trains instead of one fast one to reach Brussels Midi station. 1 hour 50 minute trip turned into three hour funride with one change of trains in a city called Breda.

As we pulled into the train departure terminal we received a notice that the express train to Bryssels was canceled. In the end we probably saved ten bucks by not getting seats for the express train. 

Ha haa, you can take a seat somewhere else because we were served some good old fashioned Schadenfreude right there.

Couple of hours of changing scenery to be seen and our train slowly but surely arrived to Bryssels. I do not know why but I had a bit of high architectural expectations for Brussels as it’s chosen to be the capital city of European Union.

Real art on top of modern vandalism.

Our initial experience of Brussels started with a line of army cars and reeking smell of piss. Perhaps we took a wrong turn already at the start but the architecture and the quality of buildings reminded me of Finlands local roughed up neighbourhood (edgy cement block-buildings with no real facade). A lot maintenance going on everywhere and oh god.. the smell of piss.

One thing you could not miss in the city were the armed forces, security personnel and police officers patrolling the city vigorously. Local law enforcement nor the army was not kidding around anymore after the Bryssel airport attacks.

I asked my friend Joonas “Oh Joonas, where have we travelled this time? Warzone?” And then we laughed and kept on going ahead safer than never before. 

Crowd gathering near the plaza
 

After walking couple of blocks closer to the centre of Brussels we found the main street which was pulsating with tourists and locals. Old buildings emerged from the grey facades and exposed the old architecture hiding in plain sight. Street band of three musicians played the latest dance hits with utmost expertise and it was plainly wonderful to listen while exploring the city. 

We ended the first day tour of the city to a busy street cafe that served belgian chocolate and various types of coffee. Iced lattés were served and we headed back to our hostel. The skies opened and sent some rain upon us for a farewell.

The next morning we decided to head north of Bryssels to check the Atom-monument and Mini-Europe tour next to it. We were there roughly 11 AM and the whole place felt like deserted. Eventually more crowd appeared and the ambience of a ghost town disappeared.

Atoms. Atoms, Atoms.
Mini Europe tour was a quirky one, ticket costing you 15,30 EUR (odd amount?) to see various monuments from EU-countries in 1:25 scale. Not sure if the price was justified but where else I can press a button and let Vesuvius mountain erupt smoke and vicious earthquakes on plastic toy citizens.
From Finland the tour included Olavinlinna (also known as Savonlinna) which is one of the many forts our nation built for defence against Russia. Luckily there was a button to spam the national anthem of Finland for other tourists. In Finland we would call this moment of joy “Suomi mainittu, torilla tavataan” (= Finland was mentioned globally, lets go get drunk at the market place).

Cute Russian girl doing recon on our fortress.

Tomorrow morning will be the last one in Bryssels as we pack our bags and relocate to the legendary love capital, Paris. Perhaps we better learn some french quickly? Qui? Now to get some well deserved rest! Have a great night!

– George