A Travellerspoint blog

60º North

A week in Shetland

all seasons in one day 7 °C
View Shetland 2013 on danics's travel map.

When I first found about Shetland, the first thing that caught my attention, was its scenery. Next, it was its remoteness. This archipelago lies half way between Norway and the UK. And it's Scotland!

This will to go there started and kept growing until I got on the plane to Aberdeen, to catch the ferry (a 14 hour trip) to Lerwick. (There were planes, of course, but they would cost twice as much and take away the fun of the north sea.)

Arriving in Aberdeen, a city that is not as dark as described and is actually, quite lovely, and with almost 8 hours to go until catching the ferry, I headed to visit Dunnottar Castle, a lovely castle which lies on a cliff, facing the sea. The walking path from Stonehaven to the castle is undoubtedly a scenic one, so I decided to walk my way back to Stonehaven, enjoy a deep fried Mars bar (they say that was invented here) - a delicious and very caloric option.

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I returned to Aberdeen, that was now full of people enjoying a sunny afternoon shopping or just walking around the city center. I then boarded the ferry, finding it to be quite empty (one of the advantages of traveling mid season) and relaxed, preparing myself for the next 14 hours. The journey was not bad at all, and the ferry has many facilities, like a restaurant, a bar, a gaming area, a store and the best of all, free wifi :)

Next day early, the ferry arrived at Lerwick. The day was rainy and it was a Sunday (I later found out that this is a big limitation in Lerwick, as everything is closed), but fortunately the rain stopped and the sun came out, allowing me to have a nice walk around Lerwick, the surrounding hills and some of the city's landmarks.

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The next 3 days I spent exploring the archipelago, by car - is certainly the best way -, driving on the left side of the road, a new experience for me. Shetland is a very beautiful place, with a enormous seashore and 1 week is certainly not enough to explore it well. One can enjoy walking, bird watching, whale watching and specially rest and breathe fresh air, as the nature is the commanding force there.

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The 3 main islands (from south to north: Mainland, Yell and Unst) are well connected with a ferry system and you can also easily visit Bressay island (just across Lerwick) and Bressay (east of Yell) by frequent ferries. Visits to the other islands have to be prepared in advance. There are also flights to some of them.

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There are no trees, but that doesn't seem to make much difference in this spectacular landscape. The wind may bother you a bit, but after a while you just get used to it. And if you visit Shetland in the summer, you'll have plenty of daylight hours! And in some places, your only company will be sheep and Shetland ponies.

I spent the last day in Shetland shopping and exploring a bit more of Lerwick. The Shetland museum is brilliant in both content and facilities, with free entrance, so I highly recommend it.

Posted by danics 06:43 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged scotland uk aberdeen shetland yell mainland lerwick unst Comments (0)

A short trip to South Holland

Or how I managed ride a bike in Holland

semi-overcast 7 °C
View South Holland 2013 on danics's travel map.

Last weekend was a different one, as I traveled north to the Netherlands. The challenge was to visit a bit of this country, avoiding the big Amsterdam and instead trying to visit the smaller cities of South Holland.

So I arrived to Schiphol airport (a modern and big, yet pretty straight forward airport) and immediately took the train to Hague. Dutch are clear winners in terms of mobility, taking advantage of their "flatland" - bike and train see to be the main ways of transport (although there is still a car rush hour in Hague), which is in my opinion a very positive aspect of Dutch culture.

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The Hague is a "clean" and organized city, a kind of political capital to the country, and has a very vivid commerce culture (as I imagine it must be similar to the rest of the country), so I stopped resisting and embraced some shopping. Although the temperature was not very low, the wind was chilling almost every bit of my body, so entering the warm stores was so nice (although my throat suffered the consequences on the next day). The city's modern and tall buildings contrast with the city center with its typical streets and churches, though the modern part is starting to get bigger.

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After a day walking around the Hague (and after a visit to the Peace Palace museum - which I totally recommend), I headed to Leiden. Although not as big as Hague, Leiden is one of the country's biggest cities. Full of museums, windmills spread across its area and network of canals that must be lovely to tour by boat, Leiden is a very nice city to visit (and to cycle, as I found out). The center is small, so you can easily walk between the main attractions and if you are lucky enough to get a sunny day, you'll find the locals sitting in one of the many bars by a canal, enjoying the sun and a drink.

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This trip was short, but gave me a general idea what it feels like to be in the Netherlands. I even think I might return there next year :)

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Posted by danics 05:43 Archived in Netherlands Tagged netherlands hague holland den leiden haag Comments (0)

Istanbul

A city of mosques, cats and Bosphorus

semi-overcast 12 °C
View Istanbul 2013 on danics's travel map.

It's been a while since I returned from Istanbul, but unfortunately, I hadn't have the chance to drop a few lines in the blog.

Istanbul wasn't even in my "to visit" list, but when suddenly I saw a flight promotion from Turkish Airlines, the idea started building in my subconscious, so, a couple days later, I said goodbye to some of my savings and invested in a flight to Istanbul. My vacation days aren't that many, so I only managed to go there for a few days.

After arriving at Istanbul Ataturk Airport, which is in my opinion, a very modern and uncomplicated airport, I headed to Sultanahmet, the old part of the city and it's historical center, where I was going to stay. A very calm, clean and beautiful part of the city. The hotel had a nice location and a room that was big enough for a family!

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I won't go into many detail of the main sightseeing places, which consist of several mosques, the cistern, etc., but I will tell you that walking around Istanbul gave me a sense of visiting a place with a very old history, a place of cultural and commercial interchange. I tried to imagine the Grand Bazaar, the Spice Bazaar and many other "places where you can buy everything" some hundred years ago and it was so easy. You will be drawn by the sellers of tea, spices, turkish delight, baklava, nuts and will most likely get the will to buy something.

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Istanbul is a city where there seems to be a mixture of many peoples, cultures and ethnicities (since it is the "unofficial" capital of Turkey - the real capital is actually Ankara), becoming a "sample" of Turkey itself. I traveled into the Anatolian part of Istanbul (which is in Asia), and the contrasts are evident.

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It is a city that is quickly developing into a modern city and the traffic is chaotic (which is even more surprising due to the fact that gasoline costs 2€/L), but I'll definitely recommend Istanbul to my friends and to you, as I think it has something to offer for everyone.

I decided that I could not leave Istanbul without going to a football match. As Fenerbahçe was playing at their stadium, I went there. The atmosphere is very lively, as football is almost like a religion in Turkey (a little bit more than in Portugal). This concluded the visit to Istanbul, leaving me wanting to return there, and to visit a bit more of this big country.

Posted by danics 06:26 Archived in Turkey Tagged football tea turkey istanbul bazaar spices sultanahmet sophia hagia fenerbahce Comments (0)

Asturias

A scenic land of great food and... Sidra

overcast 4 °C
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Last weekend I took the opportunity given to me by easyjet's recent (cheap) flight connection (LIS-OVD) and went on quick trip to Oviedo.
I don't know very well the deep north of Portugal, even less the Spanish one. So this was the perfect excuse to go there.
Arriving at a small airport, where the only arrival seemed to be our flight, me and my friends took to bus to Oviedo (the airport is actually near Aviles). The connection was fast and we got there in the most quiet way.

There's been a long time since I visited the "real" Spain (Madrid and Barcelona are quite different from the rest of the country) so at first, the empty streets during siesta time surprised me a lot. We went to lunch and our gastronomical ride began. Our hotel was very near the historical center (Casco Viejo), which I found very lovely.

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The holy chamber (Cámara Santa) with it's Sudarium and the magnificent Cruz de los Ángeles are indeed treasures worth seeing and the Museo de Bellas Artes de Asturias (free entrance) is certainly a must see if you like the works of Spanish artists (such as Picasso, Dali, Goya, ...).

As the weather was a bit unstable, we postponed our trip to the mountains to another opportunity and headed to Gijón and Avilés.
Gijón is a much bigger city, and a less touristic one too (at least in the winter). It's main attraction must be see, where we went for a walk. Although the air was way to chilly for a dive in the ocean, we saw many young (and not so young) people taking that chance. We opted for going to a chocolaterie instead :)

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Lunch time was almost over, so arriving at Avilés, we sat down at a nice restaurant, to try the typical Fabada, the Asturian Cider and some other dishes. It was indeed a feast. Afterwards, we even saw a couple getting married and we joined them by chanting and dancing.

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The weekend was almost over, but the trip couldn't be over without buying some souvenirs. I went for the cheese, which itself is one of Asturias' most exported product. Delicious :)

Posted by danics 06:31 Archived in Spain Tagged spain espana viejo oviedo asturias avilés casco gijon Comments (0)

Weekend trips in Portugal

"Vá para fora, cá dentro"

sunny 8 °C
View Escapadela Rustica 2013 on danics's travel map.

You may be wondering why I haven't posted anything in a while. Well, my traveling has been at little slower for this winter months (the Christmas "holidays" were spent at home). But I've managed to make some short trips near home.
Last weekend, for example, I went with my girlfriend on a romantic "rural" trip. We stayed at a small village, near Tomar (famous historical city). (As we didn't have much time to waste on public transportation, we took the car - Portugal is one Europe's best developed countries in terms of road infrastructures.) We explored Tomar on foot and also stopped to have a typical Sopa da Pedra (literally, Stone Soup) in Almeirim. The weather was sunny, but cold, and the landscapes were interesting for most of the way. Tomar has a lovely castle and is a small and quiet town, which you can easily visit on foot.
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The next day, we left our rented cold stone house and headed to visit Almourol castle, another Portuguese treasure, which is built in an island in the middle of Tejo river. The river's shores are lovely in that area and a nice suggestion for the summer months is to go on a kayak trip. The road leading there is also very interesting, as it goes through some interesting little typical villages.
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We had our lunch at Vila Nova da Barquinha and headed south, still making a quick stop in Santarém, the district's and regional capital, a city with its own castle (yet, another one). Although bigger than Tomar, still has a certain charm and, laying on the top of a hill, you can picture the military importance of its location. You can see all the surroundings from the top of the castle (although we didn't visit it this time). It was time to return home.

Posted by danics 10:19 Archived in Portugal Tagged house stone soup casa santarem tomar almeirim ribatejo pedra Comments (0)

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