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. 

Advertisements

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!

  
  
  

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. 

 
   
  

Gothenburg to Stockholm and back again

Gothenburg 

Approaching Gothenburg on an early Wednesday morning makes me don’t regret at all that I woke up at 4 am. With my sleepy eyes I can spot as we are descending the peaceful lakes surrounded by rich forests and the randomly placed colorful houses.

Gothenburg airport is small and well organized, within an eyeblink I already have my luggage and I’m heading to the city. It’s getting better and better, or shall I say sweeter? Yes, sweet is the right word, because in the main railway station I discover the place where I can get my treat.

  

I have just 4 hours available this time, so it’s time to get moving… straight to Haga. Haga is the charming neighborhood of the city, about which locals says is the best part. It is peaceful and pretty, although it has many cafes, bars and boutiques. The vibe of the city is pleasant and the stroll is enjoyable not only because I get to see nice churches, cute buildings and well maintained green spaces, but also because I have a great company, Ana, presenting me with lots of passion. 

   
   

Our destination is Slottskogen – finally managed to remember the name – the massive park, which is also home of penguins, fazans, deers and some other animals, all there for the excitement of both kids and adults. 

   
     

To get from Gothenburg to Stocholm there are a few possibilities, I’ve chosen the train. I wanted to enjoy the view and I was totally satisfied with it.  Unfortunately I can’t say the same thing also about the punctuality, in that matter there’s still a lot too improve, having an hour delay was pretty much disturbing. 

Stockholm

Oh, Stockholm … the beautiful city on the water. Many travelers describe it as the loveliest European capital and I can see why. 

It has:

– a small,but cute old town:

  
– viewing points at short walking distance

 
– narrow and wide steets:

   

 

–  flowers and flowers, lots of flowers:

   
  


– statues all over:

   

  

 

Stockholm is a very photogenic city, in any direction you point your camera, for sure you will be able to capture a nice sight. I especially love the waterfront  in every city and in particular in Stockholm. The blue sky reflecting in the water and the laid back atmosphere create the right spot for locals and not only. On a Saturday morning I could observe a lot of people jogging, having a walk, pushing strollers or just wandering around like me, in this gorgeous place. The view is fantastic and the weather just perfect. 

   
     For the curious eyes of the tourists there is located also the city hall and if in the meantime a boat tripping idea occurs, they are departing from right there. 

  
Even though at first Stockholm might seem to be a big city, it’s actually not. In such a short time you can find yourself in a completely different part of the city. You can travel back in time as well if you fancy. For instance, back in the ’80’s. With other words back to Abba. It’s as easy as going to the museum, more precisely to the Abba museum. I’m not such a museum person, but I like to visit one or two from time to time and this one goes to the category of the interesting museums. 

  
It’s entertaining, fun and challenges you to prove your singing or dancing skills. If you take the audio guide you will hear the story of the band from the four famous Swedish characters, who’s music made our parents break the dance floor and it’s still oldie, but goldie. 

For the passionate and frequent museum goers there’s enough to do for at least a couple days in the area. I admired just a few museums and only from outside and let me blame the weather for this : the sun was shining on my face like begging me: don’t go in, I’m here to make your day beautiful. However, there’s a lot to choose from and with another occasion I might check out a few of the following: 

   
   

By then I checked out some others while passing in front of them and they caught my attention either because:

– I didn’t like the too much golden :

  
– or would have liked to step inside but was pressed by time :

  
They might have not been enough time for  museums, but for food and getting to know some Swedish people there was. And it was valuable time. Shall I start with the people or with the food? Both have in common one thing: they might seem strange at first but once you get to know – in the case of the food to taste – them, you will always want to have a piece. Swedish people are genuinely interested in hearing your story, they have the ability of seeing and appreciating that special thing in you which makes you unique. Their kindness and politeness, respect and warm heart has no limits. Their blond hair and blue eyes makes you feel that you are on the land of beautiful people. 

The traditional Swedish food is based on potatoes mainly, but meatballs and lingonberries are essential ingredients to complete many meals. Although it might not sound so special, it is delicious for sure, but my highlight in the matter of food in Stockholm was actually a Lebanese restaurant where I tried for the first time frog legs. Now that will seem disgusting to many of you and you can’t even imagine how wrong your approach is. Frog legs are absolutely delicious, have a slightly similar taste to chicken and became my absolute favorite.

  
Unfortunately it was time to say see you soon, Stockholm and head back to  Gothenburg, this time by plane.

Gothenburg

The view again is breathtaking, though this time through the tiny window of an airplane.

  
Lucky me, again with the weather, I meet Ana overexcited that she takes me to the archipelago. The journey takes 1 hour by boat, obviously. We are given the option of getting off on any of the few islands we are passing, but we choose to go to Vrångä, the biggest, the furtherest and considered to be the most beautiful. The view is marvelous on the way there and once we get to the island another world opens up in front of us. 

   
  
A peaceful and gorgeous island, where you can walk to the beach, climb up on the rocks, wander between the trees, following narrow trials and listening the sound of the ocean and the sea birds. We completely lost the sense of time while exploring, time goes by in a different rhythm there, but we are due to head back to city.  

If in the need of a break from the everyday life, that’s the place to be…

 

Helsinki 

As you arrive to the Finnish capital you realize that it’s all relaxed,laid-back and calm.There’s no chaotic rush even at the airport. The first tip: don’t rely on the bus drivers. Many of them don’t speak English, the others just don’t bother giving you proper directions. However, on your own you figure out easily how the transportation works, after all even the metro system consists just of a single line, the second one being still in plan.

  
The massive building above is the main railway station, located in the compact center of the city, where every attraction is at a short walk or tram ride distance.

  

Weather can be pretty much diverse: in 3 days I had part of heavy rain, sun, wind, cold and cloudy, but bearable temperatures too. Obviously as the weather changes the whole atmosphere suffers a transformation. The Helsinki Cathedral on a rainy day:

  
 The same location on a sunny day with the occasion of Vappu events: 

  
Vappu starts on 30th of april with a lot of music, drinks and a big crowd at the Havis Amanda statue. Students wearing their colorful overalls and the must have white hats, wash the statue and place a hat on it, while everybody cheers and drinks champagne. 

  
The next day, on 1st of May the celebration continues in Kaivopuisto Park with picnicking and more sparkling wine. 

 With this occasion the Finnish, as know a reserved nation, go a bit crazy and open up much more than usually.  

Besides Vappu, there’s still a lot to see and experience in Helsinki. We are still in the center, where at every corner you spot either a cozy bar or an inviting restaurant. You shouldn’t skip either of them. The offer is large when it comes to food, but it is worth trying some Finnish speciality such as reindeer meat. I felt pity for the reindeer, but still couldn’t resist the temptation… In Zetor, a cosy Finnish restaurant in the center you have plenty specialities to choose from. 

  
For drinks in a nice ambiance go to Kaisla. For beer fans there are more than 100 diferent types to choose from, quite a few Finnish as well obviously.

 We shouldn’t forget that we are close Santa’s place, Lapland and it’s a good occasion to try out some food from right there. 

  
Besides te very typical reindeer specialities, salmon soup is absolutely delicious and after the tötteröletut ( pancake speciality) I guarantee that you’ll lick all your ten fingers.
This trip was full of amazing food and nice bars, one of them located in Torni hotel, where besides the cute bar and it’s good variety of drinks, also the toilet needs visited. I’m not pointing that out without reason, but I suggest taking the effort of going to the restroom even if you don’t need it. I guess you are a bit confused now, I just let the view speak for itself. View from the Torni toilet:

  
Helsinki is awesome, but isn’t it cool that in less than 15 min ferry ride you are on a gorgeous island called Suomenlinna? Such a fantastic, Unesco World Heritage site, with beautiful nature and lot of history. 

   
  

In Helsinki you can see several beautiful and unusual churches as well. Their architecture may be different, but most of them serve to the same religious orientation. Some of them you can spot from far away as being religious institutions, others you wouldn’t guess what they are actually. 
   
  

  

  The fact is that all above represent churches and are an important part of the daily Finnish life. Speaking of which, hockey becomes essential when the championship starts. Just a few hours before my flight back to Zürich I’ve been invited to Sports Academy Bar to cheer for Suomi ( Finland in Finnish). Luckily they were playing against USA, so I didn’t mind, ’cause if it was against Canada I might have been the only person there cheering for the opponents. The spacious sport bar got packed in minutes with loyal fans wearing their hockey T-Shirts and hats and waving around their national flags. It was a pity leaving in the middle of the game and letting behind me this great city, where I feel I still had things to discover… at a next visit.