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. 

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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. 



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!

Trip to a Thai floating market 

   
As if the various markets going on all around the city were not enough, decided to check out a real special one. A market on the river.
After a two hours drive from Bangkok we reached this very touristy, but yet so authentic floating market, called Damnoen Saduak floating market.  

The bus drive there is way longer than spending time at the market itself, but it does worth the travel. More or less in an organized way – Thai standards – the tour guide directs us first of all to the long tail boat and in each boat board aprox 6 people. Off we go! Not more, maybe just less than 10 minutes of long tail boat ride and we had a sneak peak of the market. But that’s not all. 

   
   
Those people put out all their products to be sold and they definitely know to advertise them. In order to have a close look and literally float between “boat boutiques” we take this time a regular boat that a strong Thai gentleman is rowing around trying to avoid the boat traffic. 

  
That’s nearly impossible though, all the others trying to do the same thing. Boats everywhere, we are being pushed either from the right or from the left ,but also from front and back and our boat does the same thing to the others . Perfect location for socializing with people from the other boats. 

  
As soon as we get close to a boat full of souvenirs the seller quickly pulls the boat closer and the bargain starts. 

  
Seller: “1000 baht for 2 wooden elephants.”

Tourist: ” whaat? 400!”

Seller: ” 500″

Tourist: “350.”

Seller: ” ok”

And that’s how my friend, Jonas ended up buying his souvenirs for much much less than the initial price. Basically they accept any price you offer as long as you don’t give up on bargaining. When you give the impression that you are losing the interest they will accept your price instantly. 

The floating market is going on all day long, 7 days out of 7 and if you haven’t found what you’ve been looking for on the boats, there’s a chance to find it on the riverside. 

From clothes to souvenirs, the selection is vague. 

   
 You can easily empty your wallet, but fill your stomach. Food is present in several locations, great cooked meals or easy snacks and fruit salads, mango or coconut ice cream and my favorite of all: pancakes. 

   
 There is also an unusual attraction that I got the chance to meet from close and despite his scary behaviour , I enjoyed posing with the massive snake.

   
  
 Shopping, eating, snake cuddling, all possible at the floating market! Don’t forget sunscreen and hat, the sun is burning over there! But if you did forget, for sure you’ll find at the market! One rule: bargain rules!

Bangkok – a bit of a culture shock

I’m a first timer in the Thai capital and as expected, the adventure comes together with a bit of a cultural shock. Not as much the first evening , when I land and surprisingly the taxi driver doesn’t charge me double or triple fare. The boom is the next day, when I hit the road to explore this new city. What other way to feel the real lifestyle than riding a local bus? Now that’s gonna be a bit of an adventure!
  
What air condition, what ticket machine, what station announcement or punctuality? Not even rules, but still as chaotic as you could imagine the traffic – and frankly there’s quite a bit of a chaos – after a while I realize that I haven’t heard any honking or fights, that makes me think that those people must be having their order in the big disorder that I see.
  
However, the bus ride is endless, takes ages and people around me are sweating but with lots of patience and water you can survive it and it’s actually fun. Not many tourists opt for the local bus, so apparently I’m a bit of attraction for the locals, who give me shy smiles when getting on and off.  

I was curious to see a market that everybody has been talking about, but that didn’t impress me. Unless you are after cheap and not good quality products it’s a place to be, if you need good stuff better you go to a shopping mall I guess. In any case, checking out a market it’s one of the top things to do in Bangkok. The variety is huge: night market, day market, weekend market, food market and the list could continue. 

   
 Bangkok wouldn’t be Bangkok without the famous tuk tuks and their as well known drivers, who’s voice keeps following you everywhere : ” tuk tuk, tuk tuk”. 

   
 They all try to attract you to their tuk tuk and so kindly offer you the magnificent best price, which at first will be at least the double of the normal fare. Bargaining has never been my thing but I quickly improved my skills in such environment and proudly rode the tuk tuk around the city. 

  
The cheapest way to get around is still the taxi – cause riding the local bus is enough once – and it has air condition! 

As European ( and probably every other nation than Asian ) getting a lot of attention, compliments and smiles from all around becomes usual after a while when you just ignore it automatically because otherwise it’s just way too much to handle. Maybe it’s because it’s Valentine’s Day and you are solo in a park?! I don’t know…, but I don’t think I remember any other day of my life feeling so admired. Hilarious! 

   
 Also, you wouldn’t expect Asians celebrating love in such an intense way! I spotted dozens of romantic pals driving their scooter towards their partner with flowers, gifts or heart shaped balloons in hands. Love is in the air in Bangkok!

From my side all the love goes to the food and the marvelous pancakes I got the chance to eat every single day in Bangkok and later on in several other places in Thailand. Simply delicious and insanely cheap ! Also the street food is safe to eat, just adviseable to have a look from where you buy it. I’ve seen a few places where I wouldn’t have eaten for sure. 

   
    
 
   
 That’s Bangkok: everything happens just a step away from the busy traffic, on the street they cook and serve your meal, exchange your money, make your pedicure and offer you a massage. 

   
 Khaosan road, Silam and Chinatown are great examples for that and definitely must see spots while in Bangkok.