What to do in Lugano in six hours?

Switzerland is tiny, but very diverse and easy to explore. In the Italian part of the country is a similar vibe as in Italy, just still organized in a swiss way.

Tessin, or Ticino as they call it, gets usually more sunshine during the year, perhaps hence the more smiley attitude of the locals.

Lugano, being the largest city in Ticino, lies on the Lake Lugano and it’s surrounded by the Lugano Prealps. Easy to approach both from Italy and other swiss cities, Lugano is a delight of the region. By swiss standards a large city, however small enough to explore by foot in just six hours.

A short walk from the train station and the breathtaking panorama reveals itself. Although it’s just 10 am the sun is burning my skin. The view is wonderful, the sky reflecting in the lake, offering a pleasant combination of colors for the eyes.


Along the lake there are plenty of benches to rest and admire the picturesque view. Besides the walk, various activities may be done, such as cruising or paddle boarding.



It’s wise to have swimmers on in case the inviting water and the sandy beach may get too hard to refuse. The ideal summer holiday setting, even though it’s not even officially summer yet. 


At lunchtime there’s no need to bother going far away, as there are several restaurants along the lake, where serving a meal comes together with the panorama as bonus. The choice may be hard though, because all of them seem cosy and the stuff very friendly.



While in Lugano, what could be the dessert if not a delicious gelato? Ice cream that tastes the best when made with Italian skill, gelato is my sweet memory of Lugano and I’d strongly recommend to try it. Yummi, yummi!

For the afternoon I thought about having a look at Monte Bre, the small mountain that’s considered one of the sunniest points in Switzerland. 


The Monte Bre funicular took me up there in a few minutes for the price of a few gelatos. The investment does well worth it. A spectacular view greets the visitors at arrival, offering plenty of spots for postcard perfect pictures.



 It is also the ideal location to serve a drink with a view at one of the restaurants. 



Heading back to the city… There is still a bit less than an hour left, just enough to briefly check out the old town of Lugano with its fancy boutiques and designer shops.

 No shopping for me, but regardless I made a complete picture of the city. With one last gelato purchased I’m happily on my way back to the train station at 4 pm. 

Tasting Romania 🇷🇴 

Probably if I haven’t lived my first 25 years in Romania I wasn’t interested to go there, as you may not be either. It’s reputation is not the greatest and is still very underrated, but it can surprise you in so many positive ways if you give it a chance.
I have my very best friends there and one of them celebrated her birthday last week. With this occasion I flew in to Bucharest, where I don’t fancy spending too much time. 

On the other hand, where her birthday gig took place is a setting out of nature documentaries. Just a few hours away from the busy capital city, in a rather remote area, lies Valea Doftanei ( Doftanei Valley).

When I say remote, it means you should be prepared for bumpy roads at some point, literally bumpy roads, especially if you take the forest road, which some tourists took by accident. 

After a good 3 hours drive we reached this peaceful spot, where it was just us, a super friendly host and the blue sky above. It didn’t take long until the uninvited guests joined us, attracted by the smell of our tasty barbecue. 

Barbecue in Romanian style is a whole ritual of bringing together several types of meat, veggies and the unforgettable tuica, which is the traditional, home made , hardcore alcohol. Food is taken seriously by Romanians , frankly, too overwhelming for me personally. The fact is that every meal is tasty, delicious and just too hard to refuse. 



As a bonus: it’s prepared with so much dedication and passion, that even the sneaky fox gets pious once it tastes it.

That weekend food played an important role in my life, however, what I was craving more was to explore a bit the nature. We did make time for this too and discovered some really nice spots. 



In the middle of nowhere has been totally amazing, I recharged my batteries, but only my own ones, as for my phone there was no need because I completely forgot to use it. No internet, no reception, no communication with the outside world. Isn’t that heaven on earth for a few days? It certainly was for me.

Although exploring the forest, dipping our feet in the ice cold creek and counting the stars on the clear sky has been amazing, on our departure day I was looking forward to the journey back to the city because we’d planned to stop at a beautiful spot that I eyed up already beforehand.



Paltinul Lake, the place we stopped at on our way back to the city, is a place that, too my shame, I didn’t even know it existed. Green grass, tall trees, blue sky reflecting in the crystal water of the lake and a friendly cow savouring it’s lunch, undisturbed by my camera. 





Pretty much the perfect scenery, but … I’d so much love to imagine that it was just the beautiful spot and no extremely loud music coming from a house nearby, no litter forgotten randomly here and there, no rotten stench of a dead dog left by the shore. Although, our nose and ears were clearly affected, we managed to put away the negative for a bit and just stare at the beauty that was lying in front of us. Maybe by next time the dead dog will disappear, the litter will be collected and the party at the house will be kept private … 

Düsseldorf – freezing, yet friendly 

I like to say that the unexpected ways of life take me sometimes to places I had no plan to go to. Surprisingly I even have friends to visit in such places. This way the long weekend was not only productive, but also a great occasion to catch up and discover a new city with the help of locals. 

Some time back I had a short layover in Düsseldorf already, not having enough time to leave the airport though. This time I wish I didn’t have to leave the airport – that was my first thought when the cold wind abbusivily blew through my body as I got out of the main train station. It was a really cold start of the journey, not the one you wish for when you are about to stride through the city. 

I fished out my warm scarf and gloves and in a minute I was prepared to win the battle against the inconvenient weather … at least for a while. 

I must admit there were not many fellows taking walks along Königsalle, so it wasn’t a hard job to take shots of the landscape without any people in them.




In the park it was pretty much the same situation, hence the pure beauty of the fall colors as they were.




As much as I cherished the lack of people in the above settings, at some point I started missing the sound of the everyday life and I decided to head towards the old town, where I knew there must be something going on with the occasion of the official Düsseldorfer Karneval opening day.

Karneval is a big deal in some German cities, Düsseldorf being one of the most important cities that hosts yearly the famous event. At 11 am of 11.11 every year the old town turned into a dance floor of the dressed up, already tipsy German ladies and gents and dozens of school kids. It’s a fun event and probably a great reason for drinking beer before midday. 


​However, it looks like it brings out the best of Germans, as they become instantly relaxed and totally laid-back, not to mention that they lose their reputation of being cold people, at least until the beer keeps flowing and the dj keeps playing their most beloved schlagers. 
Luckily the sun decided to show up on the sky for a short bit, just in time to be able to admire a blue Rhein, instead of a grey one.



A walk along the Rhein is a must while in Düsseldorf, especially if it’s a sunny day.

Further on it will look like I hopped over to Japan, because I’m just about to reveal the highlight of my trip: the stunning Japanese garden at Eko Haus. I learned that outside Japan, Düsseldorf is the city with the highest concentration of Japanese residents . I wonder what attracted them exactly to this city? I mean it’s nice city, no offense, but 11.000 Japanese it’s a semnificative number. That explains also the big number of Japanese supermarkets, book stores, restaurants and also the existence of this amazing place, EKO Haus, my favorite spot in Düsseldorf. It’s small, neat and complete: little lake, bridge, house, stones, colorful trees and above all: a peaceful piece of heaven, perfect for staying and reflecting or reading a book and relaxing – in summer ideally – my summer weekend getaway plan in Düsseldorf possibly. 



Happy 3rd one!

Happy 3rd one!
On an October 15, 3 years ago I was excitedly departing London with destination Zurich, were I wasn’t yet sure what I’m gonna find. Didn’t know anyone, just had a job offer for 3 months.

 Now, I find myself in the same city 3 years after. Stuck in Switzerland! But so happy that life surprised me with this. At times it’s been a bumpy road, but always with a positive result and a collection of amazing memories and a better and more developed self, even a slightly improved German. 

I discovered here how important is for me to connect with nature and enjoy it’s beauty while hiking, biking or simply just wandering.

  
  
  
I started seeing winter not only a cold season, but a beautiful and energizing one by reinventing myself in the breathtaking Alps while snowboarding.

  
  
Managed to refresh a bit my German knowledge and picked up some funny expressions from the local dialect.

  
Danced my way around either in dirndl or lederhosen at the Zurichian version Oktoberfest.

  
  
 Ticked one of my bucketlist thing to do: paragliding.

  
I keep eating the best chocolate in the world!

  
Those above and many others formed me into a collector of memories and not things, into someone that appreciates little things cause they provoke big smiles.

  
Unexpected changes, good and not so, the arrival of special people and the bitter taste of their sudden departure from my life, that’s also part of the experience here, in Zurich. The city treats me with a permanent diversity in the matter of climate and in matter of people I come across with. Most of us seem to be passengers with similar history, sharing the same place, doing our best to blend in and take out the best of it. Although they all complain about the coldness of the swiss, I do feel it too to a certain level, gladly I experienced their warm side too. A nation that is well-known as distant, neutral and rather straight-faced, often refuses to deal with open, warm and outgoing personalities. With all these I somehow felt always accepted and welcome and didn’t mind showing my feelings even though they may have seemed a bit too much: ” you are too passionate”, ” you talk too much”, ” you simply can be too much for anybody” – my outgoing swiss friend would often mention with his best intentions. We have great laughs about it and life goes on… a mystery until how many more anniversaries… ‘Til then: cheers!

  

Mesmerizing views of Istanbul

As in any city that I visit, once explored the streets, I have a great wish to see the place from above. Nothing feels better than being above the crowd, the busy streets and just enjoying the view. For me it’s the ultimate relaxation method while on the road. Luckily many cities have at least one fairly good viewing point which I make sure I never miss. In Istanbul I discovered quite a few, thanks to the popular roof top terraces, but I’ll point out two dear ones. 

Number one is Pierre Loti. It’s my personal favorite mainly because it’s in a natural setting, not a building or a comercialised roof top terrace. Yea, I know I did mention earlier those rooftop terraces too, they are great for a chill out evening and a glass of wine, but Pierre Loti was more than that for me. Let me start first of all with the way I got there. It’s located on a hill in the district called Eyüp, in my eyes the real side of Istanbul, where people hang their washed clothes out on the windows, kids run around barefoot and the place where I spotted more Muslims in one place than anywhere else in the city. However, it’s a cultural discovery to walk towards the viewing spot and it was a real interesting experience to observ the differences between Eyüp and the rest of the city, while walking by a nice square and also a market. 

   

   Further it will get even more exciting cause you gonna pass through a cemetery in case you decide walking all the way. For those that find this too spooky , there’s also a cable car, which will make life easier if you are not in the mood for a walk between the graves. 

Once reached the viewing point the view speaks for itself, or maybe rather leaves you speechless. 

  
  
At the conveniently located cafe there’s a big variety of beverages and the everywhere present, most popular Turkish caffe. Who wouldn’t enjoy having a sip with such a view?

  
In front of my eyes the sun went down and the lights of the city turned on one by one in the darkness that fell on the busy and vibrant Istanbul.

  
I think I could have spent the entire night admiring this panorama. But as all the nice moments quickly come to an end, it’s time to walk down and go back to real life. Still, the view catches my eyes once in a while and looks great even if there’s a grave in the first plan of the photo.

  
My conclusion : Pierre Loti a must-see spot, perfect for watching the sunset.
My number two favorite viewing point is the more touristy, but yet unique Galata Tower. As I’ve already seen Istanbul from above in the evening, my visit to Galata Tower on purpose happened around midday on a sunny day, when the water of Bosphorus is reflecting the lovely blue sky and the view is refreshing and mood boosting.

  
  
  
  
That being said, if you made it by here I’m assuming you liked watching Istanbul from above together with me. Also, if you know about another great viewing point in this city or any other, I would be happy to hear about it.

Relax, it feels safe in Istanbul!

Due to unexpected and surprising, but pleasant ways of life, I found myself in Istanbul in a period when everybody is avoiding approaching Turkey. Here I am for 3 weeks, right after some bombings, attacks and other scary events and believe it or not I find it safe and exciting. Well, the more than one hour waiting time in the line ( what line? ) , sorry, I meant chaotic crowd, at the arrival wasn’t very exciting at the airport, especially felling your comfort zone being invaded from every possible side. Skipping that part and ignoring the usual issue of this city: crazy, really crazy traffic – Istanbul has a great vibe!
Taksim square at any time of the day or night remains the central point of entertainment.

  
  
Obviously if I made my way until Taksim square I wasn’t going to miss taking the funicular along Istiklal avenue.

  

Istiklal avenue had everything that I could wish for: shops, restaurants, beauty salons, bars and a few really good cafes. 

Turkish people are good at many things, but what I certainly appreciate the most is their skill of preparing really delicious sweets . Sometimes delicious is not enough for them and then they make it also impressive. How? For instance with this enormous tower of sugar, honey and others they managed to attract quite a few customers, at least until the window to take a photo.

  The big variety of baklava certainly distracts, but it does worth giving a chance also for the local cuisine, which never dissapoints either . 

  
  

With full stomach of Turkish food and delights I’m feeling pumped to make the most of my free days in this awesome city full of varieties. Not that much interested in the touristy spots, but at least from outside it does worth checking out the Blue Mosque and the Galata tower. 

  
  

 Some other worth seeing spots are around the two above mentioned ones and with the small number of tourists in no time I checked them out too. 

  
   

  

  

While sipping a refreshing home made lemonade at a nearly empty terrace near the Blue Mosque , the waiter tells me how on a regular Sunday like this I wouldn’t be able to find a table. Now it’s different though…The number of visitors dropped so much that the staff are bored during the working hours…On the other hand the degrees didn’t drop at all, instead kept increasing, so actually I’m quite glad I have a spot with my lemonade.

  
 All energized I’m hitting the road, not too far I bump into the Basilica Cistern. 

  
   

In order to make it all complete a bazar must be included too . I head to the spice bazar at the suggestion of my just met American mate , not that much cause I want to buy any special spices, but more for the experience. We get to discover that the spice bazar is actually a kind of bazar of everything: soaps, towels, sweets, teas and of course spices too. 

  
   

 In case you didn’t know what a great advertising are Turkish sellers able to improvise , at a bazar you will certainly notice. “Everything is the best quality, the most intense and long lasting perfume, at the best price and just for you with a semnificative discount . If you have any doubts you can try it: have a bite of the baklava, a sip of the tea.” Still not convinced ? Maybe the names will make it easier. Lacking some love? At every stand you will find some love tea. Feeling weak today? Red bull tea for you. Having a boyfriend with issues? Hopefully one of these two will solve the problem! 

  
We didn’t purchase anything, but had heaps of fun! “Bazaring” it’s cool and Turkey, you rule!

  
  
  

Beauties of Bangkok: the temples

 

I was super excited to visit two of the most important attractions while in Bangkok. Even though I prefer the less touristy spots, Wat Pho and The Grand Palace can’t be missed. Both of them are extremely touristy, luckily when I went at Wat Pho it wasn’t such a huge crowd though. The ferry ride there is already an adventure itself, one of those adventures that I prefer not repeating. If the traffic on the roads of Bangkok seems unorganized and chaotic, check out the ferry on the river and you will kiss the ground when you get off. I didn’t like riding the ferry, but as I stepped to the fascinating Wat Pho I forgot about all the hassle I went through. The calmness you feel in this sacred place is probably better than any yoga session. First I was completely blown away of the beauty and the so meticulously decorated walls of the complex. It’s absolutely fascinating and I’m thinking what a hard work must be behind it.

  
Wat Pho is famous for the huge reclining Buddha, so my friend, Amita and myself make sure that we check it out. We are both impressed, it is truly big and it leaves us breathless for a second. Several notes around it, saying ” be aware of pickpocketers”. I can’t believe that in such a place some mean people can take advantage. It didn’t happen to us, but seeing those notes made us be more conscious and keep an eye on our belongings every second. Quite sad, because you don’t enjoy as much the whole setting when you know that someone closeby might rob you, do you?

  
However, the rest of the complex is calmer, tourists are all spread around, so we can explore every part in our own rhythm, calmly and observantly. I get excited at every step and probably repeat a thousand times : ” wow, that’s so beautiful”. 

  
With this occasion we can’t make it in time for the Grand Palace, so we leave that for the next morning and as we get there around 9 am is already so extremely packed with tourists from all over that you can barely move. Everybody is trying to get in but there’s no order whatsoever. That’s already annoying and for that reason I already think that I prefer Wat Pho. 

  
Finally we get in the complex but no chance to get rid of the big crowd at any time. Visiting the temples is another challenge, long queues and people pushing from all sides. When you eventually make it, at least inside you can relax a bit and feel a moment of calmness while admiring the Buddhas. As you may know, before entering a temple you need to leave your shoes outside, so just imagine what an aroma is floating in the air and your nose doesn’t know anymore what’s that fresh air. With other words, this visit is a fight for air, which is painful, but during this fight you see absolutely mesmerizing buildings, which somehow give you the energy to go on and survive in such conditions. 

  
I guess you could spend hours here, visiting several sights, but I gave up quite quickly. I’ve seen the most important ones and chose to escape the crowd. 

   
 It was way too much for me and if I end up again in Bangkok I will skip Grand Palace for sure. On the other hand I do recommend in for every first timer. Just have a lot of patience with you and some water, you will need one more than the other!