Plovdiv. Unique name.. Unique place!

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Plovdiv, Bulgaria. What more can be said to summarise Plovdiv in one short statement other than ‘it is a testament to the history of civilization’. To say that it is an ‘old city’ is an understatement, with a vast settlement history stretching past 4000BC, making it not only one of the oldest in Europe, but the world. To think about the diverse amounts of cultures that have called this city ‘home’ over the past 6000 years is staggering, with Thracians, Greeks, Romans, Bulgars, Slavs and Turks, all to leave their mark on the cities architecture and culture.

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The old city itself is a mix of ancient Roman theaters and Plovdiv’s own unique architectural style from the 19th Century, the colours used are alike those of Latin American towns, which just adds to the curiosity of the city. The stonework of the roads and walls are alike many original Balkan streets, however the care and devotion of the city towards maintaining its charm is not unnoticed.

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There of course is the old Ottoman style of the city with centuries old mosques with minarets, still looking as impressive as the day they were built! Not to forget the obviously beautifully decorated Bulgarian Orthodox Churches. In the centre of the old town the streets are similar to those of most Western European business districts, with later styled architecture, however to me it just adds further to the appeal of Plovdiv.

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The biggest appeal to me is how authentic this city is despite it still having a relatively large population; it is as though whilst it’s unique flair and spirit seems new it is amazing to know that its style has lasted centuries! Personally I would love exploring the stone streets of the old town and just take in the amazing architecture and flair of the city.

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There are lots to do and see in Plovdiv, whether you are an art buff or love to immerse yourself in history and ruins of the distant past. There are ancient mosaics, an amazingly partially intact roman aqueduct, not to mention the main sights of the Odeon and Amphitheater! An interesting fact is that the Amphitheater was only discovered no more than 40 years ago, buried underneath the city centre! It has been beautifully uncovered and can be toured. This is just amazing as the centuries past so much has been covered up, despite the size (it could sit half the cities 1st century population of 60,000!), just makes you think of what treasures are still yet to be discovered in the most unusual places!

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To get into Plovdiv these days is quite diverse and plentiful, with trains and buses from Sofia and even Istanbul! The nearby airport though small still has flights from Milan, London and Frankfurt, and then there is the trusty car, in which you can travel along the newly upgraded motorway from Sofia or Burgas!

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This amazing town is defiantly high on my trip list as is many places in the Balkans, if any of you have been there please let me know on your experiences! Hope you enjoyed the read!

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So where tomorrow’s post will be?

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Its been a while since I’ve uploaded a post.. Not since last week actually! It is thanks to a hectic schedule consisting of university study through summer holidays, and 2 online courses I have to get through before next April, on top of work duties and socializing! Where do i find the time or my sanity?!?

The place I will introduce you to tomorrow is off the beaten track and I often wonder off in my mind (as I often do when studying or working) to imagine this amazing part of the European Union.. Where you ask? Well the clue is in the photo! 🙂

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Crystal clear waters of Croatia’s Plitvice Lakes

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I never have been any place that offers so much unspoiled natural beauty than Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia. The entire park from the very first step is awe inspiring and a testimony to just how amazing nature is.

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I visited Plitvice earlier this year and also last year during summer and the first thing I noticed was just how many people come to visit. It had me worried about the quality of the experience (I am not a big fan of having to dodge tourists while trekking), and there was a slight bother for the wait for the ferry to pick us up from the pier, however the scenery just draws your attention to all the great things on offer.

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From the moment you set foot on the walkway you are greeted by the clearest water you could ever imagine.. While walking over a little timber bridge just over the side of one of the lakes I actually knelt down to touch the water.. I almost fell in since my depth perception was way off, it was so still and clear I thought it was only centimeters under the bridge, turned out to be a bit more!

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The walks are quite long and there are lots of photos to be taken along the way, whether it be waterfalls, fish, wildlife, strange formations in the lime coloured water and even the lush greenery of the forest.

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When you finish the possible hours on end of walking there is a kiosk at the end which you can relax with a light meal and a beer before you jump on the free bus to take you back to where you started! There you will find more food options of typical Croatian everyday grilled meats. The walk from the main carpark to the lakes are great, with local produce being sold such as great fruits, honey and even chilli fetta cheese!

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The cost of entering the park is a quite low, being less than $20 for an adult, and driving there from the coastal city of Zadar or the capital Zagreb is only a couple of hours away, so this is great for a day trip. I and anyone that has been will highly recommend it, make an occasion for it the next time your in Croatia!

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Pontus, Anatolia’s Ancient Treasure

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Pontus too many people holds abundant different meanings depending on how savvy you are with history and your ethnicity. However to me, Pontus is yet another one of those places where I had no idea how beautifully unspoiled the scenery was when I first found out about it and just how many hidden treasures there are on offer to the unknowing traveler!

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Located in northern Turkey, lining the Black Sea, Pontus is one of the earliest inhabited parts of Anatolia with a history dating back over 5000 years and being home to long staying ethnicities such as the Greeks, Armenians, Anatolians, Turks and most interestingly, the Amazons (These people were in Ancient Greek mythology an all female tribe of warriors whose queens come descend from the gods!). Besides that the history of the ancient province has left marks across the area with ancient fortresses, monasteries, tombs and Ottoman mansions.

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The natural beauty is just staggering and it’s amazing to think that it is hardly visited by tourists. The option of what to do and see is broad and stretches from the beaches of the Black Sea to the highest peaks of the thick forested mountains.. Personally the thought of hiking or riding through the green mountain forests and the villages shrouded by mist is one of those experiences that I cannot wait to embark upon.

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The regions main centers are scattered along the coast line, these include Sinop, Ordu, Trabzon and Samsun which will cater for the average tourist (not that there’s anything wrong with that); however for the adventure seeker it seems that the more inland of Pontus that you venture, the more fulfilling each province is! Take the town of Amasya, a picturesque wooded ottoman style town that has huge rock carved tombs on the side of a cliff face above the town; many of the tombs date back to about 2000 years ago.

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A big thing for me is the food of the region, and honestly I love Turkish foods and meze’s, so the cuisine is like an added bonus to this fantastic location! And not to forget the locally grown tea of Pontus.

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This part of Black Sea Turkey is mostly unvisited by westerners over the better known and easier to access parts of the country, however though there is few international visitors staying each year, tourism is largely on the rise, and its not hard to see why! I hope you enjoyed these pictures which have bewildered my imagination for a long time and perhaps one day will inspire you to add Pontus to your bucket list! 

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-Daniel Berakov

 

Baku, Paris of the Caucasus

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There are a handful of places on earth where you can find the charming architecture of Paris, magnificently designed modern skyscrapers, a history shared with great empires of the world and most importantly it is almost unheard of to the knowledge of Western travelers. I wish to introduce you to Baku, Azerbaijan, the ‘land of fire’.

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Baku has long since been on my mind and imagination, I would drift off imagining what it would be like to walk the streets and avenues that I see in these photos I’ve collected from various websites; I would always leave myself in a world of ‘if’, where I just go ahead and plan exactly what I would do and see when I arrive there! I would firstly absorb the history of the city.

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Located between Iran and Russia, it is amazing to think that great empires have trod through the Caucasus such as the Mongols, Persians and Russians would have little idea that Baku would be the birthplace of the Oil industry that would eventually provide half the worlds oil by the turn of the 20th century. It was only until then that Baku would become a boom-town from the sleepy settlement that was. Investment poured into the city, much like a turn of the century version of Dubai, majestic mansions were built along side other grand structures, culture changed with the city, schools, universities, theatres and academies were erected to ensure the new residents could enjoy life as it were in the major capitals of the world.

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Needless to say, it is thanks to oil then and today that Baku is by far the most charming city of the Caucasus.

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The people are overwhelmingly Azeri and Shiite Muslim, yet they are very tolerant to other religions. English is not widely spoken as of yet, however since Baku hosted Eurovision in 2012 and numerous international sporting events, the next generation of Azeris are preferring to learn English over the predominant Russian as a choice of second language.

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(This photo is of a hidden cafe in Baku, it has been circulating facebook recently!)

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In terms of sights, the streets of Baku are magnificent; there are numerous bazaars, hidden cafes, picturesque squares and parks, and best of all the architecture of the place! Here’s a blog I found which covers majority of the sights and it is so interesting to see exactly what this city has on offer! http://www.thoroughlymodernmilly.com/2013/07/things-to-do-in-baku/

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Apparently flights to Baku can be arranged from major European cities or if you are like me and live in the end of the world, then getting there involves flying to Dubai or Abu Dhabi and then taking a flight to Baku. The catch is finding a cheap flight and then organizing Visa upon arrival, if you were to go!

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There’s a treasure trove of options available to you for travel outside Baku into other towns and I will cover those soon as possible! I hope you enjoyed seeing these pictures which have inspired me to work towards going to Azerbaijan one day, and I hope that one day you will too! It seems the more time you give Baku the better it gets! Click the following link for a great traveler video about Baku! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lj9W084k0RQ

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Baška Voda, the Makarska Riviera's ideal retreat

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The Makarska Riviera. To many, a largely unheard of region on the Dalmatian Coast that offers gorgeous beaches, historic port towns, picturesque fishing villages and best of all, a breathtaking backdrop no mater the direction you gaze.

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Where is it?

 It was first in 2007 that I went there, since then I’ve been a further 3 times and will go back again! Any place in particular? Well there is astounding options available to the different demographics of travelers who venture this way! With the close to 20 towns and villages, accommodation ranges from great party locations, romantic & secluded beaches, and family friendly seaside towns; however my favorite to date is the small town of Baška Voda.

To describe Baška Voda as picturesque is way too cliché, yet it’s the first word that comes to mind when I think of this place. Situated not even 1 hours drive south from Split, it comes as no surprise that this place has hiked up in popularity significantly over the past 5 years. It offers great hotels, numerous new apartments for rent, superb restaurants, gorgeous mountains that huddle around the town and best of all, a huge blue flag beach in which there is always space.Image

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When should I go?

I’ve always traveled to this town either towards the end of June and during July before peak season really kicks in (it really is the ideal time to go). The sun is HOT the air is fresh and breezy and the cool sea completes the feeling of perfection, it is safe to say that you can spend your day just relaxing on the clean pebble beaches (and a day lasts from 5:30am till 8:30pm).

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What can I go see?

 If you enjoy exploring there is an incredible foreshore promenade which will guide you to fantastic and famous locations as in these pictures, these include Brela which has made it to the Forbes top 10 for ‘best beaches’ and made 1st place in Europe a few years back; or walk further north-west to some secluded beaches with hardly anyone in sight, needless to say, make space on your camera’s memory because the walk is amazing. You can find a video I uploaded to YouTube of the location here, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5gooMcN6ydE

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There are plenty of day cruises to the surrounding islands of Brač and Hvar which can be organized by many charter cruises on the foreshore. These islands are the better known ones from the over 1000 islands lining the Croatian coast, and boast an amazing history dating back to ancient Greek colonization; If boats are not your strong point then there are many bewildering locations just a scenic drive away from Baška Voda; these include an hours drive north-west to Split, Croatia’s 2nd largest and most vibrant city; Mostar (2 hours away in Bosnia & Herzegovina) which is alike a trip back in time to a medieval Ottoman town; and not even half hours drive south to the blue flag beaches of Tučepi and Podgora.

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What’s on the menu?

 You are spoilt for choice when it comes to culinary options, from traditional Croatian cuisine to the more popular seafood; there is rarely a bad choice to be made for dinner! Having been to at least 90% of the restaurants I can safely say that no corners are cut and the quality of food is superb! A hint would be to try finding ‘King Restaurant’ for a top notch dining experience or find out when the next ‘Fisherman’s Night’ will be on, where the daily catch of fish and squid is cooked up on the pier and served for next to nothing whilst Dalmatian folklore bands play through the night!

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How do I get there?

 Options of travel range from driving (which I find most preferable due to the network of new motorways), buses which leave daily from Split and I cannot see why you couldn’t just sail there should you be on a private cruise! Most tourist based information is readily available on the official tourism webpage and in a variety of languages (most of which are spoken in Baška Voda by the way!).

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And finally..

 All in all, Baška Voda is a destination to recommend and remember, mostly it’s a place offering magnificent views, amazing feasts and relaxing accommodation which won’t blow out your budget. I just hope that when you go there it is as the way I left it, perfect.

What’s Next?

 In the coming few days I will share with you a place that has not left my mind for the past few years, is a perfectly balanced mix of culture from the east and modernism of the west, yet its not in the middle east or Turkey. Where you might ask? Here’s a photo, should you recognize it, leave a comment! Until then take care and Sağolun!

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Image by David Messie

Link to the towns webpage: http://baskavoda.hr/en/

 

Re-discovering our world lost to 'conventional' travel #1

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Who am I?

Before I begin, I will introduce myself, seeing as its my first blog post, ever! My name is Daniel, I’m 24 years old, a university student and friends call me ‘Bera’ due to my fantastic surname.. cool story, I know. 

I’ve lived in Sydney, Australia my entire life and ever since I was at least 4 years old I always wanted to explore what seemed out of reach places, whether it be a park I saw from the back seat of the family car, a town in a far away location I saw in a movie or even funny enough explore beyond the borders of open world video games like GTA or even Call of Duty. Let’s be honest there is Imagesomething interesting about exploring the unknown!

There is something inside me that I feel and I’m sure many others feel, that leads to a yearning to explore places where others either have no interest or not enough knowledge about. After all its these places where you just might discover feelings of happiness, excitement, tranquility or you might just feel at peace with the world. Without trying to sound like a conventional ‘explorer wannabe’, I have little interest in discovering a hidden cafe in Milan or visiting a National Park somewhere in Australia..That is simply put, over done and not really discovering anything outside the box in terms of travel. After all, lets face it, the Western world is well documented!

How this blog will be different to ‘travel blogs’

First and mostly of all, I want to expose you to places which you either rarely or wont read about at all, introduce you to different peoples of this world that you did not know existed, share histories from the most unheard of locations and more than Imageanything I want you to know that travel goes beyond the usual destinations of Tropical resorts and Parisian streets.

Now before I start I would like you to know, there are places I will be sharing with you that I have been before, these posts and stories will include such information like:

  • Best places to visit, walk around, drive to, eat at, etc
  • Cheapest & most convenient ways of getting there and getting around
  • Places that are nearby so you have some option on other great places to go
  • Tips of the area, things to do and not to do

And then I will share other great destinations that I wish to go one day, I will just be scratching the surface by mentioning:

  • Where, What and Why go to there?
  • Interesting facts & stats, histories and articles or videos about the destination
  • Who lives there?
  • How do you get there?

As this is the very first post I don’t want to turn this post into a book, yet, rather than leave you with nothing at all before my next post I will briefly share a place I have been recently, just a month ago in fact. A place that I hold very dear to my heart and is what feels the periphery to the world of travel I’m going to share with you!

A taste of things to come

ImageOne of the most spectacular places Ive been to in Europe is defiantly Croatia, in particular the Makarska Riviera. It is a rare piece of unspoiled Mediterranean Europe with pristine water, clean beaches, hot dry days with almost perfectly timed cool breezes, it really is the Pearl of the Adriatic. Truth be told, photos don’t do justice to the beauty of the Dalmatian Coast, this photo was taken from my battered 3 year old Sony Xperia phone, which has accompanied me to Europe 3 times now (however I do believe this was its last time).

I will share with you the best this Coast has to offer, the most interesting places to day trip too, the cheapest yet best quality places to eat and most importantly how you can make everyday you spend there count!

But that is until a few days from now, due to endless studying ahead for the weekend! Try to keep posted and until then, take care and Doviđenja!

– D Berakov