A travel guide to Pelion (GR)

Visiting Greece for summer vacation has become a given for me. Since I live in the Netherlands for the last seven years (and counting), it has become a tradition and a necessity to visit the homeland. Not only to see family and catch up with friends but also to visit the breathtaking sceneries and swim to the bluest of seas.

This year I visited mountain Pelion, next to Volos city, 330 kilometers north of Athens and 220 kilometers south of Thessaloniki. Pelion forms a peninsula between the Pagasetic Gulf and the Aegean Sea, which makes it is a popular destination for the summer! However, Pelion attracts visitors throughout the year, since its many skiing resorts and spa hotels are a beloved choice during the colder months of the year. Since visiting Pelion is possible both during the winter and summer months, you will get the chance to visit or stay at some of the “archondika”, old mansions that are now renovated hotels and boutiques. Their architecture is very distinct, and you can find them overall on the mountain.

September is soon ending, but the summer mood still lingers. Pelion is a great destination to visit during summer and autumn, especially in the seaside. You can visit either the Pagasetic Gulf, the one closer to Volos city, or the Aegean side. If you want to go from one side to the other, you need to cross the mountain with the car (approximately 50 minutes). That is why I recommend to either choose one side or spend half your days on the Aegean side and the other half on the other side. You can combine visiting the mountain and the sea, enjoying in this way the freshness of the forest, but also the soft breeze of the coast.

Even if summer has ended for the most of us, this short guide is to inform you of the choices you have in the area, how to access certain places and what to choose to make your vacation as relaxing and enjoyable possible.

How to reach Pelion: If you are flying to Athens or Thessaloniki, you will need to rent a car or choose public transportation to reach Volos. Having a car is always more relaxing and easier than having to depend on Greek public transportation, but the choice is up to you. Driving on the mountain can prove to be challenging for the inexperienced driver, but with patience and caution, it can be a rewarding experience and a great part of the trip. You might notice that Greeks share a certain driving behavior, especially when it comes to parking. There is only one rule: park wherever it is convenient. You will notice that they park in the middle of a busy street or on a big turn in a small mountain village. As I said before, some extra caution is necessary! Extra tip: Choose a car with gas (if possible), since it is cheaper.

As for the accommodation, there are countless places to choose from because the area is touristic, yet again not as touristic as the Greek isles. You can find an expensive villa up the mountain, an affordable hotel in a village or an apartment next to the sea. It all depends on your budget. Prices from 40 to 100 euros a night for a hotel/apartment are common. Be careful though, if you are planning to visit during high season (July-August) book beforehand because prices get higher as summer approaches. Whatever you choose, my tip is to choose a nice view to the sea. You will love it!

Our wonderful view

As for my experience this summer, I must admit it was a blast. We had the pleasure to visit Agios Ioannis, the biggest village located on the Aegean side. Agios Ioannis is full of cozy and affordable restaurants and has a vibrant nightlife. The village is next to the sea which means long evening walks in the small boulevard, visiting the small local shops and enjoying (numerous) cocktails! You can enjoy the Agios Ioannis beach and also visit the two beaches located on both sides of the village; on the right side, Papa Nero, is a 20-minute walk from the center of Agios Ioannis, while the other one, Plaka, is located on the left side and it is also a 20-minute walk. Be aware that the path for Plaka is a bit rough, meaning you need to cross many slippery rocks.

Pelion has many activities to offer throughout the year such as skiing, horseback riding, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, climbing and many more. Since our vacation goal was to swim, lay in the sun and eat, we didn’t indulge in any of those. Who knows, maybe next year!

Where to go swimming: Damouchari is this famous beach where Mamma Mia was shot. The beach has white pebbles and it is surrounded by rocks. You can enjoy the beautiful beach view by choosing one of the few cafes the small village has to offer. A must-see is the famous Fakistra beach. The Guardian ranked it 7th in the list with the most beautiful beaches in the entire world! Fakistra beach is located very close to Tsagarada village and it is a 30-minute drive from Agios Ioannis village. To reach the beach you must cross a 15-minute steep path, but it is certainly worth it! Surrounded by cliffs and wilderness, Fakistra beach has white sand and pebbles with crystal clear waters. You can swim for hours and by the end of the day, you will not want to leave.

There are many other beaches and small villages you can visit, but the truth is you cannot visit it all, you need to be picky. Mylopotamos is also another great choice, as is Tsagarada village, where you can enjoy the shadow of one of the oldest trees in the area.

Weather: the weather is warm (25-35 °C) during the day but there is always a fresh breeze at night. Even during September, the temperature ranges between 20 – 25 °C during the day and doesn’t drop below 18 °C at night. Storms are also frequent during summer. You might notice that your throat is hurting while staying at the mountain, but don’t get alarmed, it is quite normal.

Whether you visit Pelion during the summer or winter months, the choice is yours! But who can say no to a vacation full of sun and blue seawaters? Hopefully, this short guide can be useful in your next adventure in Greece! For further information or any questions you might have, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!

Photos: Minolta Dynax 7000i (AF 35-105mm). Kodak Ektar Film 100 and LomoChrome Purple, 100-400, 35mm film and Samsung A5 (2016). 

When in Oslo, NOR 2018

Locations: Vettakollen, Akershus fortress, Akker Brygge.

Oslo, Norway. April 2018. Minolta Dynax 7000i, Kodak Film 200, 35mm film, 36 exp.

 

Infrared Impressions of Oslo, NOR 2018

Locations: downtown Oslo, Grünerløkka, Akerselva river, Oslo Opera House.

Oslo, Norway. April 2018. Minolta dynax 7000i, Washi Z 400/135 BW Film, 24 exp.

 

Adventures in Madrid

Visiting Spain was in my bucket list for years, so the idea to travel to Madrid came naturally. Even if it was my first time ever in Spain, I always felt I knew the country. After all, we share similar cultural habits, like food and siestas, but we also appreciate a good glass of wine and a sunny terrace! So, I wanted to experience firsthand what Madrid had to offer.

The trip didn’t start so promising for me; I got my period while traveling to Madrid, which in a way brought some distance between the city and my general perception (hormones we oh-so-hate). The weather welcomed us with a beautiful sunshine and a clear blue sky, which was a great start, but also a chance to forget those horrible days of the month.

After meeting my best friends at the airport, we headed to our apartment. It was the moment we stepped out the metro, that my inner Bilbo Baggins started screaming: “I’m going on an adventure!”.

 

Dinner, lunch and breakfast

In Madrid, as in the rest of Spain, what you need to try is the tapas. Tapas are types of savory dishes that are served in bars; they are usually accompanied by drinks and are the core of the touristic Spanish cuisine. Tapas can be small portions (tapas) of food or bigger ones (raciones). They can be for free or you need to pay for them. Tapas are known all around the world, however, the quality in which we normally find them is far inferior to the real thing – trust me. In Madrid, the tradition is that you are offered a small tapa for free with every drink you order, typically, a small bowl of olives. So, you will eat a delicious tapa either way!

Tapas are not just about the food, it’s also about the way you eat them. It is the whole eating culture that comes with them. You go out with your friends, you find a tapas bar, you sit at the bar and you start eating. You typically order a drink and a couple of tapas plates, and then you order another drink and a couple of more plates. Exactly like eating meze in Greece. I get it now. And you never sit at the same bar all night; you go bar-hopping, visiting several tapas places in one evening.

Seeing for the first time a tapas menu can be challenging, especially if you have no idea what to order – like me. Asking for help and recommendations from the waiter is always a nice solution. Some of the famous tapas are the classic tortilla de patatas, the croquetas and the patatas bravas, but you can also choose from a variety of salad, pasta, fish and meat dishes! There is literally food for all tastes.

During our stay we visited several tapas places; the ones that stood out were the Ojala close to the Tribunal metro station area and the Juana La Loca in the La Latina area. Ojala attracts many young people, mostly due to its hipster interior design. They offer many small tapas, mostly Mexican based dishes. Juana La Loca is modern but it’s also a more typical tapas bar. It attracts people of all ages and the service is quite good. We tried a selection of cold and warm tapas with some Rioja red wine on the side. It was delicious!

A must-go place is certainly the famous open market of Mercado de San Miguel. There are many open markets you can visit in Madrid, but this one is close to the city center and it has a very nice atmosphere and of course, great food options! It has dozens of counters with all types of tapas and drinks. I am telling you, it is a paradise. In the middle of the market there is room where you can sit with your friends while you enjoy the amazing food and drinks! This was for sure my favorite place!

If you feel like visiting a different restaurant, go to the Sobrino de Botin. It is the oldest restaurant in da world (also part of the Guinness World Records), and it is also wordwide famous. You need to book beforehand though, because it is always very busy. I would call their food traditional comfort food and certainly not gourmet. It is typical Spanish food based on very old recipes. It is quite expensive (overpriced I would say), compared with the rest of the restaurants in the area, but its atmosphere is certainly unique. One thing is certain, you will meet people from all around the world there and you will eat a lot! {Check the pictures of their menu in the gallery below to get a glimpse of its food and prices}

While you are in Madrid, don’t forget to try the famous churros with chocolate. We visited the famous Chocolatería San Ginés in central Madrid (in a passageway close to San Ginés church, west of the Puerta del Sol). This chocolatery serves the famous chocolate con churros (hot chocolate and churros) since 1894. They are basically churros served with enough hot chocolate to keep you up all night. They say it’s prefect after dinner, I say it’s perfect ALL-DAY LONG.

La Mallorquina cafe is the best place to grab a quick snack and coffee. It is part of a chain that you can find throughout Spain and they have loads of pastry, savory and sweet snacks to choose from. Pick your coffee, choose your treat and enjoy a quick bite before you start the day. My only problem was the communication, since almost none of the café’s workers understood English. However, they were very kind and helpful with everything we wanted.

Another good breakfast restaurant is the Federal Café, a very modern place (close to the center) which tends to get very busy. We had to wait 20 minutes to get a table, but it was worth it. Their breakfast and lunch options were endless, and their pastry was super delicious. I had a salmon toast with a poached egg and salad and later an amazing chocolate cheesecake (which I unfortunately had to share).

Drinks & Nightlife

Now let’s talk about where to drink in Madrid. That was perhaps the most challenging part for us since we discovered many bars that were not really our taste. But don’t get discouraged! There are countless bars for all tastes to enjoy your drinks. For great cocktails visit the Lamucca de Prado, close to the National del Prado Museum. Other great options for cocktails are the Del Diego Cocktail Bar and the Salmon Guru. If you are not impressed, then check the roof of El Corte Inglés that has an amazing view or go to La Negra Tomasa. To be honest, in every restaurant or bar I visited, they had amazing Rioja (my favorite) red wine. So, even if you crave only a glass of wine, you will find many bars that you can just chill and chat with your friends.

Places to visit/Museums/Art

When it comes to museums and culture, you certainly need to visit the Prado Museum. It has a huge collection of European art, with loads of Goya paintings. On the ground floor you will find Spanish, German, Flemish and Italian paintings from the 15th and 16th century, while on the first floor you will find European artwork from the 17th and 18th century. You must see the fantastically creepy Garden of Earthly Delights by the Dutch painter Jeronimus Bosch, the Raphaels and Titians, but also don’t miss out the Black Paintings from Goya, they are amazing. The Prado is enormous, which means you will have to keep in mind that you will spend at least 2 hours there. There is a lot of art and it is always busy, so plan ahead and enjoy this wonderful museum.

Another must-see museum is the Reina Sofia. Its collection is certainly more modern; it has four full floors filled with art! On the ground and first floor you will find collections on postmodernity with themes such as decolonization, the uprisings of ’68, feminist movements, the economic crisis, the expansion of popular culture and the emergence of other peripheral modernisms, but you can also find several temporary exhibitions. The second floor is dedicated to modernity, with Dali’s surrealist work and Picasso’s famous Guernica, while on the fourth floor you will find post-war works that focus on the antagonism between United States and the Soviet Union. The third floor is always reserved for bigger temporary exhibitions, such as the one I visited, William Kentridge’s multi-layered work, which I had seen before in Amsterdam. The museum currently has an exhibition dedicated to Fernando Pessoa, my favorite Portuguese poet and writer, so if you get the chance, please visit it and I will be eternally jealous!

For a better way to explore the city, you should definitely follow one of the many free tours in Madrid. How it works is very simple: you book online the date you want to join and then you meet up with the group at a central point. After the tour, you are free to give the guides any amount of money you think their work deserved. From my experience, I have to say that their work and insight was great. From those tours you get a general historical and architectural overview of the city, plus you learn the central spots. If you follow or not those free tours, don’t forget to visit the Royal Palace of Madrid and the Retiro park; the latter we didn’t visit because the rainy weather didn’t allow us.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to go shopping in the city, so I don’t have any shopping advice for you! We were busy walking, visiting museums and eating. On out last day the weather was very rainy which didn’t allow us to walk and explore the shopping area. I spotted many nice stores though, that I will certainly revisit in the future!

Practical tips

For accommodation, you can find online small apartments close to the city center, so you don’t have to walk much from one place to the other. We chose an excellent location, close to Puerta del Sol, the very center of Madrid, so that we could have everything at close range. The truth is you will need to use the metro either way, but staying in a central place is always handy.

So, for using the inner-city metro, you need to buy a red card that you then recharge. That was challenging for us, since the English language mode of the ticket machines didn’t actually work. Thankfully my friend knew some Spanish and we could print our card and tickets.

It might get a bit confusing getting the metro and trying to figure out the stops and the lines you need, however, checking the boards they have there and asking the employees of the metro will make your travel easier. Do not use Google maps in any case, because it only confused us (sorry Google).

Useful tip: to reach the airport you will have to use the C1 blue line. If you live in the center, taking the metro towards the Chamartin stop is the easiest option; from there, you wait for the line that takes you to the airport (I took the T4 for European flights).

For more information visit their website.

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Click on the links to check the places online.

This post is not a promotion for any of the businesses mentioned above.

(Photos: Canon EOS 1000D, edited via Lightroom with VscoCam & Samsung A5 2016.)

 

PRIONIA, OLYMPOS, GR 2017

Prionia, at the foothills of mountain Olympos. Greece. July 2017. Minolta dynax 7000i, Kodak Gold, ISO 200, 35mm film.

At Prionia, you can find a restaurant, maps and directions to climb the mountain. It is also the spot that cars don’t go any further. You will find the beginning of a wonderful path that leads to Litohoro village or you can climb towards the mountain itself. Alternatively, you can ride a donkey as seen in the photographs!

Parga, GR 2017

Parga, Greece. July 2017. Minolta dynax 7000i, Kodak Gold, ISO 200, 35mm film.

[Locations: Castle of Parga & Valtos beach]

 

Spring in Utrecht, NL

Utrecht, the Netherlands, March 2017. Minolta dynax 7000i, Kodak Gold, ISO 200, 35mm film.

Amsterdam Impressions, 2014-2015

Impressions of the city of Amsterdam, through the course of 2 years.

Locations: Kalverstraat, 9 Straatjes, Eye Film Institute.

Pentax P30, 35mm film.

A Winter Weekend in Wien (Vienna)

Traveling soothes the soul, the mind, the body. It refreshes the way we see the world; it broadens our horizons and it surely helps us relax. Even if we travel for one day or a weekend, the stimulation we gain from experiencing a new environment is enough to fill our days with beautiful memories.

I had the pleasure to discover one of Europe’s prettiest and most praised cities: Vienna. Last week I was pleased to see that it was ranked the city with the highest quality of life! And I can tell you that they have earned it. During four days (three and a half to be precise), I had the opportunity to explore this unique city. Vienna has so much to offer that it is very hard to choose where to go. However, with good planning and precious advice (uhhm mine of course) a short trip can be very fulfilling.

[This post reflects my experience in Vienna and intends to inform and help prospective travelers.]

First of all, Vienna has a lot to offer in terms of Art. There is art everywhere! All the old palaces are now galleries you can visit, with exhibitions that change throughout the year. Some of them are permanent all year long. I decided to start with art, because it was also one of our main goals of our visit there. Later I will focus on food (yeeees) and where to go for drinks. Some extra handy details will also be included.

A nice way to discover the Viennese atmosphere is to start by visiting its palaces. Since they are quite a lot, you better choose beforehand what looks more interesting to you. Also, don’t forget that all the palaces have entrance fees, so a careful budget will save you from unexpected costs. Nowadays, many of those palaces function as museums (Albertina, Belvedere), others are used by the government (Hofburg), while many share multiple functions. The famous Schönbrunn palace, for example, that used to be the summer imperial residence, now attracts millions of tourists for its architecture, interior design, gardens, but also its classical concerts. We visited the famous Albertina and the Belvedere palaces.

Albertina was built in 1744 for Count Emanuel Teles Silva-Tarouca and since then it has been destroyed and rebuilt throughout the years. It underwent a complete renovation in 2000 that lasted for three years. The famous Habsburg Staterooms were restored, while four new art exhibition rooms were created. We enormously enjoyed the permanent Impressionist and early 20th-century art. Monet and Picasso are the main figures of this exhibition, while we saw French Baroque and Rococo drawings from Poussin, Fragonard, Lorrain and David. The contemporary art section was super fun to see, such as the tribute exhibition of Austrian Markus Prachensky with his dynamic red compositions. The last room includes works from Andy Warhol to Anselm Kiefer and many other contemporary artists. My favorite part of this palace was undoubtedly the ground floor collection, the Film Stills! It contained unpublished film stills from iconic films of the 20th century: Nosferatu, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Metropolis, Persona, The Great Dictator, Kino-Eye, Breathless, 8 ½, and many more (check the gallery below)! Unfortunately, this exhibition was temporary, but Albertina always includes new ones devoted to photography or film! Check the current exhibitions here.

Belvedere is a much smaller and compact museum, but with an extraordinary view. Before we arrived, it had heavily snowed, so you could see from its windows the misty white atmosphere covering the city. The part we focused on was the Upper Belvedere houses, where they have a massive collection of Austrian art, dating from the Middle Ages to the present day. This museum’s main focus is the permenet Gustav Klimt’s exhibition, but also Tina Blau’s. Its temporary exhibitions vary throughout the year. You can check what is coming here. Thankfully, we visited the museums on separate days, otherwise the art overdose could prove fatal!

I am not an art historian and my general art knowledge for the ones who know me is quite limited. Nevertheless, I enjoy art enormously, as much as I enjoy watching art films. When you look at beyond the obvious, the stated, the ordinary, it can transform your whole experience. Having said that, it is time to move on to my favorite place: The Art History Museum. It is big, diverse and perfect for beginners.

The Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna is located just behind the Natural History Museum (Maria-Theresien-Platz, 1010) and it is probably the greatest art history museum ever (yes too excited). It contains an immense amount of art on its two floors, that covers the course of more than 2000 years of human history. The ground floor starts with Ancient Egypt, followed by ancient Greek/Roman statues and objects. The care with which all the antiquities are exhibited is evident from beginning to end. As a Greek, it was heartwarming to see how beautifully they have put everything together. The first floor consists of Flemish, Dutch, French, Italian and Spanish paintings, from Breugel to Dürer and from Velázquez to Titian, all European masterpieces of the 16th and 17th century.

(for more information click the links on every museum/palace)

Vienna is worldwide famous for its coffee houses (Wiener Kaffeehaus). They are a vital part of the Viennese culture and attract thousands of tourists. Many of those coffee houses are constantly full and they offer a high quality of service and of course coffee! The famous Café Central was unfortunately closed during our visit, but we did enjoy a luxurious lunch and coffee at the Landtmann (Freud’s favorite). Its location is ideal since it is close to most of the famous museums (Universitätsring 4). We also visited Café Diglas and Stadtcafe, both located at the center of the city (check the photo gallery below). Some of the famous coffee houses can be a bit expensive, but they offer great quality service and superb food. Their coffee though is of a reasonable price and it is always accompanied with a glass of water. Waiters are constantly at your service; the way they dress and behave makes you feel like you are one of the many 19th century intellectuals visiting their coffee house! The atmosphere and vibe of those coffee houses are unique.

Now we need to seriously talk about food. A fantastic place we visited was the Vollpension lunch café, extremely popular for its granny dishes – literally they have old ladies cooking for you – and its vintage atmosphere. It can be very very busy so you better reserve, as it is not as spacious as the typical Viennese coffee house! For the price of 8, 90 we had the breakfast that offered bread with homemade spreads, two types of cheese, fruit and vegetables accompanied by a boiled egg. It was delicious! Don’t forget to try their cakes, you won’t regret it.

What you need to try, at least once, is the famous Viennese schnitzel! Lugeck is one of those restaurants that combine classical culinary traditions in a new and modern way. They offer the best schnitzel in town, served with cranberry sauce and potato salad. The Cuvee wine they had was superb! You will immediately feel the cozy atmosphere of the restaurant with its minimalistic environment. If you are looking for something more international, you should try the Medusa restaurant. They offer amazing dishes of the Italian cuisine. I had the pleasure to enjoy tagliatelle with salmon and extra parmesan! (pictures that will make you drool follow). And again, the wine I tried was magnificent – a local one whose name I forgot! If you feel like enjoying more drinks, a walk to the 25hours rooftop bar in the MuseumQuartier is ideal. You can meet people from around the world here (it is part of a hotel), while enjoying the breathtaking view with your favorite drink at hand.

One of the greatest experiences in Vienna was certainly going to the Opera. I have never visited an opera before, so the whole evening was quite special. The Vienna State Opera House is a majestic building that hosts every week different opera plays. We had the pleasure to watch Puccini’s Tosca, a story set in Rome at the time of Napoleon’s advance on the city. It was a moving and extraordinary experience. It lasted approximately 3 hours with two breaks in between. During the breaks, you can buy drinks or enjoy the small appetizers they offer. What made an impression on me was that the wine was the same price as the water, so better carry a water bottle, since paying more than 3 euros for water is quite extreme. I highly recommend for you to visit the opera, even if you don’t consider yourself a fan! You will be surprised by how intense it could be. The ticket prices vary: the higher you are, the cheaper it is.

The weather in Vienna was surprisingly ok. It had snowed just before we arrived and the snow started melting away through the weekend. It was quite rainy during our last day, so having an umbrella with you is advisable. From now on the weather will only get better, so dressing up in layers is wise. If you arrive by airplane, there is a bus service going every 30 minutes from the airport to central points, including the train station. It costs 8 euros and is extremely useful. The ride lasts approximately 40 minutes (from the airport to Morzinplatz/Schwedenplatz for example, close to the center). It is recommended to stay close to the center, since it is a very large city. We stayed at CH wellness apartments, which we booked online. You can find any type of hotel or apartment in the city on varying prices.

Beauty combined with culture, great food and amazing sightseeing is what Vienna means for me. Hopefully this article has been informative enough for any prospective traveler! Because traveling is what makes the world go around.

Let me know at the comments below about your experience and if you still have questions about traveling to Vienna, don’t hesitate to contact me!

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Click on the links to check the places online.

This post is not a promotion for any of the businesses mentioned above.

(Photos: Canon EOS 1000D, edited via Lightroom with VscoCam & Samsung A5 2016.)

 

Leeuwarden Impressions

Pentax P30, 35mm film. Central Leeuwarden, The Netherlands, 2015.