A Travellerspoint blog

Travelling in Poland

Krakow/Auschwitz-Birkenau/Wroclaw

sunny 0 °C

Hi All,
My last business trip took me to Poland.
This was my first visit to the country and I was naturally curious about it.
I've started in Warsaw and from there I drove to Krakow. The motorway system in Poland still has a long way to go and we are forced to drive in national roads a lot of times.
Eventually we arrived to Krakow and checked in at a nice hotel in the jewish quarter.
The centre of the city was decorated with Christmas lights and and we had a nice traditional polish dinner, full of pork fat, pork sausages, pork this, pork that... it tasted good but really not healthy! Oh well, nothing that a good walk could not (dis)solve.
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The next day we drove from Krakow to Wroclaw and the trip took again almost three hours. Yes, travelling around in Poland demands patience...
On our way we stoped in the extermination camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau.
The morning was very cold and a thick fog was still laying on the ground.
We arrived early in Birkenau and the camp was still without tourits. Let me tell you that even after 70 years we can still feel the emotional pressure of the place.
The rail road used to bring the jewish prisioners to the camp ends there... end of the road, literally.
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Birkenau is only one camp, one part of a large human extermination factory. Looking at the layout of the large complex we can see that this area was clearly designed like an assembly line, optimized to kill efficiently thousands of people.
We left Auschwitz and we've stayed silent for awhile. No words can explain the experience of walking in that place.
Wroclaw greated us with another Christmas party in the main square. The buildings in this square are very beautifull and colored, and the city deserves some time to be enjoyed.
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yeah, curious statue... are they trying to tell us something?

Overall, Poland was a good surprise with nice friendly cities like Krakow and Wroclaw.
But of course, the stop in Auschwiz was the highlight of the trip. Hopefully this place will teach future generations about the bad things that human civilization must not do.
Cheers
A

Posted by ACoelho 14:02 Archived in Poland Comments (0)

Above 68º North

Summer hollidays in Lofoten, Norway

semi-overcast 14 °C

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Hi again,

I finally got some time to chose some pictures and to write some words about our summer holidays.
This year was the time to travel to some colder place. Lofoten in Norway was in the top of the list already for quite some time so this year we went there, above 68º north.
We took the flight from Lisbon to Oslo and then to Bodo. Then from Bodo we took the ferry to Moskenes in Lofoten in a crossing that took a little bit more than 3 hours. Nusfjord, our final destination, took another hour driving. Nusfjord, was our base camp during that week.
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Driving around is easy and it is the best way to reach all the nice spots in the islands. We've spent five days checking out the increadible beaches with white sand and turquoise waters, surrounded by tall mountains.
We've started at Â, the beautiful fishing village, and we've finished our tour in Laukvik, the northern most point we've visited. Difficult to put on words - and even in pictures - the feeling of calmness and the real scale of the landscape... you really need to be there to understand it. Below some pictures of places we've visited in Lofoten.
Aah... such nice moments!

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Â, the world heritage fishing village

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Fisherman preparing the stockfish in Â

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Our cabin in Nusfjord, another world heritage place

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On our way to Unstad beach...

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After walking for more than one hour following the mountain trail, there it was, the great view of Kvalvika beach.

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Rock and rolling
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Las picture before returning to the mountain trail

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The amazing Uttakleiv beach, really my favourite beach in Lofoten!

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Breakfast in Svolvaer / The Ice Magic Bar, strange but unexpected / The impressive WW2 museum in Svolvaer / Bridges of Lofoten
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The kingdom of the Gods

After leaving Lofoten and Bodo, we drove south to visit the Svartisen glacier.
No words to describe the feeling of touching the ice and being inside some caves inside the glacier...
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This is it, I hope this will tease you to make the same trip one day.
Memories stay alive...

Posted by ACoelho 09:34 Archived in Norway Comments (0)

The Portuguese coast - Cape Espichel

Sea, stunning landscape and.... Dinossaur trails!

sunny 24 °C

It's not the first time I've been to this place but it still surprises me nevertheless.
The loneliness feeling comes along with a fantastic sense of getting in tune with the sea, the land and the power of the planet.
We can walk around the trails overlooking the sea or maybe we just walk the most interesting one, the dinossaurs trail.
In Pedra da Mua and in the Lagosteiros spot its possible to observe unique dinossaur trails.
The land was flat in this area hundred of million years ago and dinossaur herds walked around leaving their footprints in the mud. Since then, the planet got into action and bent the ground to almost a 90 degrees angle.
Hundred of years ago, people saw the strange trail and associated it with a religious appearance, a miracle.
In consequence, a santuary and a chapel was built in the top of the clifts, at Cape Espichel.
Science as usual told us a different thing and we now know that it's only the evidence of dinossaurs playing around in the beach...
This place is only 40 minutes south of Lisbon and deserves a visit if in the neibourhoods.

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Cheers

Posted by ACoelho 11:28 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

Buddha Eden Park in the Silver Coast

Great thematic park in the centre of Portugal

sunny 20 °C

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For those who like chinese culture or just like to see and enjoy those Buddha's images, this is the right place to visit.
The park is situated just 60 km north of Lisbon in Carvalhal, Bombarral, and it takes about a one hour drive to get there from Lisbon using the A8 motorway (exit 12)
The park entrance is very cheap, just 2,5 eur per person and it's worth the visit.
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In a large property partially used for vineyards - the well known and wonderfull Quinta de Lorido winee, same owner as Quinta da Bacalhoa - a large set of granite and marble statues are spread around a lake and small hills covered with cork trees and local flora.
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Strolling around the pathways and statues is very nice and you need at least 2-3 hours to enjoy the park properly. There's a good self service restaurant in the park and at the exit a wine shop which also needs some time to be explored ..... :)
The park claims to be the largest Buddha park in Europe and it was build in response to the destruction of the Giant Bamyan Buddhas, sculpted in the rocks of the valley of Bamyan in central Afghanistan and which had for centuries been a cultural and spiritual reference.
Check the pictures!
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Ah, not too far away from the park there's a magnificent beach.
The Silver Coast reagion is full of nice beaches but I think this Foz do Arelho beach is one of the most scenic places.large_SAM_6085_copy.jpg
Cheers

Posted by ACoelho 05:31 Archived in Portugal Comments (1)

Weekend in Madeira

The pearl of the Atlantic

sunny 20 °C

I'm writing this post already three months past my visit to Madeira.
We've travelled to the main island in December 26th and stayed in a nice hotel near Funchal, for four days.
The main island is not so big and altough there's a lot to see we've found out that 3-4 days is enough to get a good view of the place.
I really suggest that you rent a car and do your own driving as this is the easiest way to enjoy the island at your own speed.
It was my first time in the island and I must say that Madeira exceeded my expectations.

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Like many other islands with the same geological history - Madeira raised up from the ocean during a long and intense vulcanic event - the coastal landscape is impressive and very beautifull. It rains a lot during the entire year in the island and the mountains are always green and with lush vegetation . And in how many places in Europe can you expect to have 20 °C temperature during the day in late December????

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Many years ago, driving around the island used to take too many hours because the coastal roads were very narrow and cutted in the rugged cliffs. Today it's possible to go from one end of Madeira to the other end in just a couple of hours. Many new tunnels cut through the mountains making life much more easier for visitors. However, there is still a couple of these old roads in service in the north side of the island which will defy your patience and driving skills...

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The place that I liked the most is Ponta de São Lourenço, a strip of land made by vulcano in the east part of the island.
Hiking in São Lourenço is a must do, and there's a marked trail which lead you to the end of the land.
But enough of words, please have a look into some pictures taken during that visit.
Madeira is a nice place to visit and, who knows, maybe a place to live someday - like many foreigners do.
PS: do not forget to try the local kebab with corn cake on the side.
To drink? The Poncha, of course!!!

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Posted by ACoelho 13:35 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

Art in Madeira

Great idea in the old town of Funchal

sunny 18 °C

The family spent some days in Madeira this Christmas.
Weather was perfect, temperature around 20 °C. I will post shortly some impressions about the island along with some photos.
Overall, and this was our first time in Madeira, the island met or exceeded our expectations. But like I said, I will share with you all soon more about Madeira.
What I want to present today is a set of pictures taken in the main street of the old town quarter in Funchal.
We were strolling in the area when we entered this street where artists used the old building doors to express their art.
May be not really a new thing but nevertheless the final result is very interesting and unique.
No more words, just a sample sequence of art made in the buildings doors in Funchal.
Cheers
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Posted by ACoelho 14:03 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

Happy New Year 2013!

Fireworks in Sado River, Setubal and Troia

semi-overcast 12 °C

Hi Everyone,
First of all, I wish you all a Great 2013, full of good things and new travel around the world.
This year we went out to see the 2012/2013 fireworks in Setubal. Thousands of people enjoyed the show from the Fishermans Warf, facing the Sado River mouth and the peninsula of Troia.
Cheers!!

Posted by ACoelho 03:58 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

Boston, Plymouth & Cape Cod

Historical moments and places to remember

sunny 16 °C

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I'm still in Boston area, in Quincy, to be precise. After some days working in Boston I went south for the weekend - cheaper hotel rates forced the move!
This was my second time in Boston but only this week I managed to have some time to really feel the city.
To an European guy like me, Boston feels like the most "european" city that I've been in the USA.
The water front is very beautiful, always full of activity and with lots of spots to visit in detail.
I took one of the many hop-on/hop-off tours that go around the main icons of the city. It is my opinion that these hop-on/hop-off tours always work well when we do not have too much time to visit the place.
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Today, I drove down to Plymouth, place of the first english settlement back in 1620. The morning was gorgeous, the light was perfect and I spend some good moments walking around the park area just in front of the bay.
A replica of Mayflower can be visited in the pier and I had to stop and think about how difficult it was to travel in the seventeen century... no more bitching when travelling economy next time :)
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Another two hours driving south and I arrived to Provincetown just in time to a nice lunch facing the fishermans warf.
The city was full of people, maybe warming up for the halloween weekend. So I've just spend there enough time to record some images of the place in my mind and camera and left to visit the sandy beaches of the Cape.
For me it was interesting to find out that this landscape is really very similar to our peninsula of Troia - please see my previous post about Troia - both places are separated by an ocean and 5500 km.
In fact I was surprised by the fact that there is a large portuguese comunity living in the area. But, may be this is not so strange after all. The Cape is all about fishermans, white sandy beaches, good seafood... that's us, portuguese people, any where in the world!
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Well, hopefully my pictures of the Cape will show the calm, relaxed atmosphere of a late October saturday.
This is a place that I would like to visit again with a little bit more time. We'll see...
Tomorrow it's time to return home, running away from Sandy hurricane just in time (I hope!)
Cheers!

Posted by ACoelho 19:54 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Playing like a rabbit in Lagos, Algarve

Boat ride through the caves in Lagos, Portugal

sunny 27 °C

Yesterday I was surprised by a friend.
Knowing that I was in Lagos for a meeting with a large group of people, we all have been invited for a meal on bord followed by a boat tour to the coastal caves in Lagos.
The caves can only be accessed by boat and only experienced sailors can take you to some of the caves. The tides are strong, the rocks are like sharp needles in some places and in certain caves you need to know the right moment of the day to get in - simply put, you need enough head room to go through in the boat.
Enjoy the short set of pictures, which were taken with my phone camera - many of which were taken while I was trying to keep my balance in the boat :)
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Cheers!!!!

Posted by ACoelho 12:19 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

Croatia

10 days travel from Zadar to Dubrovnik and back

sunny 38 °C

Hi all,
This year Croatia was selected for our summer holidays. As usual, we rented a car and drive around. To us this way of travelling in a new country is very convenient as this allow us to design our daily plan as we move on and to stop and relax or to spend more time on a specific place at our own will.
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We've landed in Zadar, which was used also as our base for visiting the beautiful Plitvice lakes and to make a small cruise to the Telašćica protected area and the Kornati archipelago. In Zadar I loved the Sea Organ which I thought it was a great idea and that could probably be replicated and improved in other coastal areas around the globe.
What new can I say about the Plitvice lakes? Nothing, really. It's a unique place, certainly a place that everybody will enjoy to visit at least once. Unfortunately the national park was overcrowded with thousands of visitors walking in the narrow trails around the lakes which reduces somehow the obvious attractiveness of the natural scenery. But I knew this in advance from reading other visitor comments and we had to live with it and enjoy the moment as much as possible.
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The small cruise to the islands was ok, the nice M/B Elizabet provided us with a good service on board and since the boat was only half full everybody felt good with plenty of room to sit down on deck and enjoy the Baltic sea and the islands passing by. We stopped at Dugi Otok and went for a swing in the Salt Lake, an interesting lake which is connected to the sea by underground natural channels. Again, we had to walk a little bit around the lake shore to move away from the crowd and at the other end we found a nice beach next to the tall cliffs facing the sea.
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Next: Sibenik and the Krka national park. We stayed in a lovely apartment 5 or 6 km away from Sibenik, which I recommend (Apartments Palma); in fact it's the perfect base to visit the Krka park since you are only 30 min away by car. We did not explore the park too much because it was too hot and the natural pool at the bottom of the waterfall was more than enough to convince everyone to stop and swim to refresh. Before moving south to Split we had to check Sibenik, a nice city with an interesting old town section as well.
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In Split we had a bad experience with the apartment which was way below our expectations and descriptions on the site we've used for booking. In fact I've learned that Croatia coastal line it's almost a continuous line of hotels, apartments and rooms to rent and I'm sure that it's very easy to find unexpected bad surprises, so some careful selection is recommended.

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The city was again overcrowded, although the roman buildings and the city evolution throughout the centuries is very interesting to be seen.
From Split we've took another small cruise to the island of Solta and the village of Maslinica. The boat stoped for awhile in the blue lagoon area nearby and my son which is 9 years old had a blast jumping from the boat into the sea time and time again.
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Farewell Split, Hello Dubrovnik. Driving to Dubrovnik demands an additional effort, since the motorway ends just 50 or 60 km after Split. However, this effort is rewarded with some impressive views of the huge fertile valley near Vina and later on in the Neretva delta near Rogotin.
Dubrovnik is a lovely place and as you can read in every tourist guide, a must view at world scale. I tried to remember the news on TV about the bombing to Dubrovnik back in 1991-1992 when Croatia was fighting the former Yugoslavia army. Seeing the old town now it's difficult to imagine that this place was almost destroyed 20 years ago.
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The views from the top of the hill are breathtaking; take the cable car to the top, explore the area and enjoy the views. Then give yourself a treat and eat something on the restaurant of the cable car enjoying 180 degrees views of the horizon.
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Croatia is a nice place to visit, the sea water is warm and very clear although if you like sandy beaches you will be somehow disappointed with it; most of the beaches are really wonderful but made of pebbles, not sand.
I do suggest that you choose a different month from August to visit Croatia; June or July or even September will be the best moments to enjoy the coast; it will be warm and nice and with must less people around.
Cheers

Posted by ACoelho 08:20 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

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