A Travellerspoint blog

Vilnius - A hidden gem

snow -6 °C
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Last week I took some days off from work so I could visit my sister in Vilnius. While there are no direct flights to Vilnius from Lisbon and Lithuania is on the opposite side of Europe, it still was quite easy to travel there. I traveled by Lufthansa and arrived at Vilnius airport near midnight (with a quite long stop at Frankfurt).

The temperature in Northern Europe around winter months is usually below 0 °C, which was the case. It was snowing and a bit chilly, although I had come prepared for this scenario.

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Vilnius is a lovely city, often below the radar for Portuguese tourists (probably because of lack of advertisement). The old city's architecture reminds me of Prague and it has plenty of churches, so it is a must for those who like to visit them. But Lithuania's great food, and people's sympathy give Vilnius an even more enjoyable place.

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The city's center is easily walkable, so that's what I did on the next day. It was snowing for most of the day, but fortunately it wasn't too windy. I went up to Gediminas castle, from where I could enjoying a panoramic view of the city.

Next day, I woke up early, to get on the bus to Trakai, a very touristic place, that was once the capital of Lithuania. Trakai is known for its castle, which was rebuild in the 20th century, from the ruins of the previous one. It stands in a island in the middle of a lake, making it a very picturesque monument. As it started to get dark, I rode the train back to Vilnius, which is only 30 km from Trakai.

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For the nightlife fans, Vilnius also has something to offer. Vilnius is a young city, with many students, making it quite lively at night. As drinking is not allowed on the streets, you will find bars filled with people.

My visit to Lithuania was quite nice, but short, giving me a reason to come back there. I had my flight back canceled due to bad weather in Germany, but Lufthansa managed to get me on the next morning's flight to Lisbon, with a quick stop-over in Warsaw.

Posted by danics 06:26 Archived in Lithuania Tagged snow vilnius lithuania trakai Comments (0)

Weekend in Copenhagen

overcast 5 °C
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This weekend I went for a short trip to Copenhagen. I have a friend working there, who was kind enough to invite me, so this presented itself as an opportunity to visit the capital of Denmark, a place that is often forgotten. Arriving at Copenhagen airport (a modern and quite big airport), I took the train to the city center and then the bus to my friends' place. As this was friday night, we went to enjoy Copenhagen's quite vibrant nightlife. Here, I started to experience the Danish high prices, as they typically charge about 5-6€ for a beer.

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Next day we decided to rent a bike. This is for sure, the best way to visit the place, as it is quite cheap and gives you the necessary mobility. Copenhagen (and most Denmark, from what I heard) is one of the best places in the world to ride a bike, as the roads are prepared for cyclists and you can see most people doing exactly that. Copenhagen's sightseeing spots are concentrated in a small area, near the city center, so you can visit the touristic sights easily by foot in a couple of days. The downside of going there near the winter was that by 4 pm, it was dark and the sun was gone.

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Although I didn't find it a very beautiful city, Copenhagen is in my opinion a nice place, organized and people are generally nice, so I think it would be a nice place to work and live in. My time there was short, so I think I'll return there one day (probably when I have some extra money to spend :) )

Posted by danics 04:04 Archived in Denmark Tagged bicycle denmark copenhagen kobenhavn Comments (0)

Back from Romania

sunny 15 °C
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Returning from Romania, I must say I was surprised, as I was expecting a much different Romanian capital.

Modernized and noticeably influenced by European Union's fundings and external money, Bucharest has become a vibrant capital, as much as any other city in Europe. A big city with lots of cars (and taxis), stores and undergoing construction works, along with it's wide avenues, make me think that the city is expanding quite fast.

We arrived early morning (very early), to find out traffic and people already awaken and ready for another day at work. We took the chance to visit some of the main sights, such as the Palace of the Parliament (Palatul Parlamentului), a gigantic building that houses the Romanian Parliament. Later that day, we went to one of the most touristic (and well known) restaurants, "Cara Cu Bere", which has its own brewery. It was full of people and the food was great, with the prices ranging 7-15€ per person. Afterwards, we dropped into one of Lipscani's bars, which are frequented by young people. This historical area is also the heart of Bucharest's night life.

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Next day, we visited a few more places in the city center and relaxed a bit in the Cișmigiu Gardens (Parcul Cişmigiu). As we had plans to go to Bran Castle, the next day, we went to sleep early.

On Saturday, we woke up to a smoggy and cloudy Bucharest, and we went to Gara De Nord to catch the train to Brașov, from where had to catch a bus to Bran. We were hoping to walk around a bit in Brașov's city center, but our train got delayed for more than one hour, so we added this destination to our "To Visit" list. Transylvania offers its guests amazing natural scenery, surrounded by mountains and green fields and forests, which we only saw from the train windows.

Arriving at Bran, we visited the Castle, which is marketed as Dracula's Castle (wrongly). However, it is a nice royal castle (although overpriced, in my opinion) and it is nice to visit. The town is very touristic, with dozens of souvenir stores and stalls. We bought some souvenirs, ate a late lunch and returned to Bucharest.

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Sunday was our last day in Bucharest. We woke up quite late, but still managed to take a big walk around Herăstrău Park, a lovely park that has a lake and a island in the middle. You can see people of all ages, practicing sports or just enjoying a sunny afternoon. We walked back through Bulevardul Matei Basarab and Şoseaua Kiseleff, quite chic avenues which can easily be mistaken as Paris' avenues (with Romanian's version of the Arc de Triomphe). We packed and after a nice dinner (again in Cara cu bere), we went to airport, returning to Portugal. Agreeing with user "toblerone", which commented that Romania has nicer places to visit, I hope however that I can return to Bucharest and from there, explore more of this beautiful Romania.

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Edit - Added photos

Posted by danics 06:29 Archived in Romania Tagged romania brasov transylvania bucharest bucuresti bran Comments (0)

Bucharest - On my way

semi-overcast 16 °C
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I've been quite busy for the last few weeks, but now that I've managed to take advantage of our [still] national holiday and a day off, I'm heading to Romania. While Bucharest may not be the obvious place to go for most of you, it is one of the few "strange" capitals of Europe. Strange in a sense that it still holds some of it's true nature, trying to postpone western influence. My time in Romania will be short, but I hope to have some interesting stories for you when I get back, along with a few pictures.

So, until then, have a nice "week end".

Posted by danics 10:49 Archived in Portugal Tagged romania bucharest bucuresti Comments (1)

Weather affected (Part 2)

About how I could finally get out of the island

overcast 20 °C
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Another day in Flores, somehow starting to get used to the slow rhythm imposed by the island. It's true what they say: you have to spend some time in a place to absorb its true essence.

In our case, the weather prolonged our stay, but it was not bad at all. We were getting used to the breakfasts at Braga (a small 'café'), to the lunch and dinner early schedules and we already knew some faces and all the streets in the little village of Santa Cruz.

Saturday was basically pouring all day, so just relaxed indoors, waiting for a magical call telling us the sea would be ok the next day.
That call didn't come, so we started looking for alternatives, i.e., the plane. Our return flight was from Corvo island, so in order to get there, we bought an additional ticket. We would be flying to Corvo, "rechecking-in", and catching the same plane to S. Miguel.

We were lucky as it had stopped raining and the sun was shining again, giving us the chance to go hiking to the north part of the island, so that was exactly what we did. The landscape here seams more mysterious, and the forest occupies most of the area. We didn't go all the way to Ponta Delgada (not even near, since our feet were still recovering from the previous hike), but I got the impression I'll have to go there next time I visit Flores.
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Being our last night at the island, we picked Inatel's restaurant as the dinner spot with a nice "Cataplana de Marisco" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cataplana

Monday, October 8th
A bit more sleeping time, a late breakfast, souvenir-buying time, and yet another walk to the airport to leave our bags. The last day at Flores and although I missed home and my family, a part of me wanted to stay in that quiet place, where the sea is the main subject. But it was time to go, time to fly.
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1 Micro-flight and 2 mini-flights later (from Corvo to Flores, then from Flores to Faial, then from Faial to S. Miguel), we were at Ponta Delgada, waiting for our plane to Lisbon (we still tried to visit Sete Cidades, so my friend could see it, the the island was covered by clouds). The interesting part was that during this "island-hopping", we almost had a glimpse of every Azorean island, from above. Magical!

Posted by danics 05:07 Archived in Portugal Tagged santa cruz plane flores azores sata açores corvo Comments (0)

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