Let’s start by answering a question that some of you might be asking right now. Why bothering to specify that this is a Republic in the title? Because Ireland is an island divided by two countries. The Republic of Ireland, to which this article is dedicated to, and Northern Ireland which is part of the United Kingdom.
Another article about what and how I packed for a trip, this time, my trip to Scotland. Even though this might seem like a boring article, it is always a good idea to see how another person prepared for a trip, and what went wrong (or not). I write these review once I am back, because it doesn’t make sense to just list what goes inside my backpack.
Recently I visited a city in the north of Ireland, Derry, and I noticed that there are still a lot of confusion between the “Irelands”. The confusion has some reason to be, after all there are three Irelands. And with that, people get quite confused between the three. Yes, three! Not one, not two, but three!
Visiting Iceland is a dream for many people, and for several good reasons. Mostly for those breathtaking and almost unspoiled views. But not only because of that, also all that mysticism that Iceland brings in us for all of those unique natural activities, that for most of us can only fit in our imagination. Like volcanos, northern lights and the midnight sun. Even for those who only have a few days to visit, the Golden Circle is a short route really close to the capital, and easy to visit.
This week I finally ticked off another one of my Erasmus’ goals, visiting Auschwitz!
If you are expecting something extremely depressing (though that would be just really odd), I highly recommend you to visit these camps during Winter, as in Spring most likely only the museum and stories will shock you. To be honest, I felt like the place is a bit too “tourist oriented“. All trees are perfectly shaped, the grass is perfectly cut and everything looks in great condition. I even saw people eating on the grass like if they were having a picnic… Very disrespectful from my point of view though…
After a few tries, I finally ended up visiting Istanbul! A few misadventures prior to that and unforeseen changes of plans that lead to cancel the trip once, this time I flew alone and I ended up having a memorable time in this ancient city! So memorable that I decided to split this article by days.
This trip was completely different from all my other travels, it was the very first time I traveled alone with kids! I decided to treat my nephew and niece with a special weekend, they were only 5 and 8 when we did this trip. It was their first time at Disneyland Paris, and they had no clue about where I would take them.
The article below is a translation of an old article about Greece that I have deep down inside my memories chest, considering it’s still one of my most viewed articles in Portuguese, I decided to translate it to English and share it with everyone! I tried to keep the same voice as the original version, in Portuguese, but some of these “facts” were mostly my perception of things when I was living there.
Some random facts about Greece
I think I will have a diabetic seizure soon, these traditions are killing me! Here in Greece it is tradition to give sweets to friends/work-mates when it’s someone’s birthday. Nothing strange to us, Portuguese people, because we do something alike…, and if we don’t bring anything to share, we all have that one friend who will force us to pay a few beers at any pub (preferably at an expensive one 😛 ) Well, considering this, the last two days we had 3 birthdays here at the office, which means, this is my third morning sweet :X
Another tradition around here, that I just got to hear about, is that when someone buys a new car that person also should give sweets to their friends/work-mates, so try to guess what I have here right now between my keyboard and belly? That it! What’s left of another morning sweet! This is my second one today…
Regarding the birthdays story, that’s something I still didn’t get properly, according to some touristic books, Greeks only commemorate their birthdays until their 12th birthday, but I’ve seen a few birthdays around here as well…, maybe just because yesterday I had two sweets as well :X And in theory, after their 12th birthday they only commemorate their “Name Day“. Almost all Greek names are based on some Saint (which has a day for them), and in that Saint’s day they commemorate something alike a birthday…, and just by coincidence, while I was writing this article another guy came up here with more sweets! I asked if it was his birthday, and his answer was “Name Day“, I will really become a diabetic if I stay here much longer… I am starting to think this is just an excuse for them to eat sweets for any random reason…
More random facts about Greece, not counting with their really complex and interesting history, but there are a few really odd things still today, one of them that comes from almost 2000 years ago…, the Mount Athos which I am eager to visit one day…, but not during this internship. Check the link that points to Mount Athos, that peninsula is “independent” for almost 2000 years, it survived wars, empires and even Governments…, all because this peninsula is ruled by the church! Alike Vaticano, but on a bigger scale…
From my perspective, this is really absurd and very closed minded, it is a peninsula restricted from women and female animals, but only the domestic kind. Yes, that’s right, women are RESTRICTED from that peninsula! How on Earth does this still happen on XXI century? And from the images I see online, it is a place of an amazing beauty…, at least they kept it unspoiled and they didn’t let it become another touristic place filled with hotels and resorts…
Breaking news -> I just got offered another sweet! This is my third one today, if I am not mistaken :X And this one is definitely a birthday sweet 😛
And proceeding with the random facts about Greece…
Another protected area is Hydra island, which I plan to visit one day, if I have better luck with the stupid boat tickets…, it is an island restricted from all motorized vehicles and with a very specific urban plan, all of this to keep the typical architecture of the island intact! You might find many things to complain about the greeks, but in regarding their heritage they know what they’re doing…
Monemvasia is another place like this, a town I am planning to visit in June’s long weekend. It is a medieval town, also restricted from all motorized vehicles, and again, to keep the town/isle intact!
However, you can also find terrible examples of how not to do things, like what they did in Athens… Between the Temple of Olympian Zeus and one of the most typical districts in Athens, of which it’s history and mythology are so tied up, they created a wide and busy avenue…, which means, the Temple and the historical district are split apart by a busy avenue…, this is the price of “process” when people don’t plan properly.
This weekend I will try to visit Meteora, I had other plans, but I guess I really will go to Meteora, I’ll try to book a bedroom today (but first I’ll make sure I can get the train tickets), and I think this time I will finally visit this place. This area, according to everybody, it is absolutely breathtaking…, whoever saw the movie 300 probably remember that Monastery that was on the top of a cliff…, these monasteries exist, and they are all in Meteora!
Another curiosity, is how precise these old people did things, apparently there are three temples that form a perfect triangle, and they are quite far away from the other ones, being one of them in one island… How on Earth did they do this? Based on stars only? I already visited these three temples, Parthenon, Temple of Poseidon in Sounio and Temple of Aphaea in Egina (the first, and so far only, island I visited in Greece).
And I think it’s enough of random facts, it’s your turn now and come to Greece and explore it 🙂 Even if it seems they don’t care much about the tourism, they have loads of amazing things for you to see 🙂
Now some proper facts about Greece!
As the excerpt above was from a younger Gil, I decided to add a few more things to this article, and some proper facts about Greece that might be unknown to some.
The modern borders of Greece, as we know it today, only has 70 years! Less than a century! Yes, it’s more than known that greeks are the pillars of modern society, democracy, philosophy, arts and much more. We all heard about Ancient Greece, and how important that period was and how that affected, in a positive way, the rest of Europe and parts of Asia and Africa. But, what probably you haven’t noticed yet, is that Greece is located in a very very strategic region. Several wanted that part of Europe, Venetians had part of today’s Greece, then Italians, also the Ottomans, Bulgarians, and other folks. The greeks suffered a lot across times, though their identify as a people prevailed.
Greece, for us is Greece, for them is Hellas! Confusing? I couldn’t find exact information of why this is so different, but for what I could understand it started with the Romans, they called the people living in the area that is now Greece the “Graeci”, while those people used to call themselves Hellenes. Maybe we all should start calling that country by Hellas?
Besides Greece and Cyprus, greek language is base for several dialects in Turkey and Italy, some even closer to Ancient Greek than Modern Greek!
The greek flag has 9 stripes, 5 blue and 4 white. According to popular saying, each strip is for one syllable of their motto, Freedom or Death (Ελευθερία ή Θάνατος), it’s also said that the nine strips are one for each letter of the word Freedom (Ελευθερία). The blue cross, I think than one it is easy to guess 🙂
Greek coffee, Turkish coffee, Arabic coffee. They are all the same. But don’t tell this to a greek, or a turk or an arab, most likely they won’t like it. But you should try and drink it! Don’t drink it as an espresso, let it settle down and take your time to drink it. And unless you want to hate that coffee for life, don’t drink the very last part of it… Just take your time to drink it, and all will be fine. Patience is the trick to drink this special coffee.
This year was amazing, and at last I checked out of my bucket list one of my travel dreams, this trip to Iceland! No, I didn’t see the Northern Lights, at least not with my bare eyes… (more about this in another article). But it was a trip that taught me a lot about loads of things, even how to prepare a bag and the trip itself.
An adventure doesn’t have to be epic to be enjoyed, it doesn’t have to last for several months to have memorable stories to tell, and it doesn’t have to be shared with an old friend to feel absolutely comfortable. This trip to Scotland was one hell of a trip, filled with moments to remember and to try not to forget (this blog will certainly help to keep those memories alive).
Once upon a time I used to surf couches, but now it seems like just another fairy tale… I still love the concept though, but nowadays I am more into hostels. Those times when I was hooked to couchsurfing, the main reason was the experience and contact I had with the hosts, never for the fact that was for free. However, my last experiences were way too impersonal, even as a host. Nowadays I prefer to pay, and take my chances, I might or might not meet people who I get along with, and to add to that, there is also less responsibilities, as I am not staying at someone’s house. And that’s what we ended up doing in our trip around Scotland.
To start this new photography series, nothing better than my own country, that has so much to see! By the end of that road you can see an island, Pessegueiro Island, at the Alentejo’s coast. I took this photo in 2012 on my way to Algarve, by the coast, with my parents, nephew and niece. By then I was already living abroad, each time I go back to Portugal I look at my country from a different perspective, with more pride.
Some of the most famous railway routes cross entire continents, and for the majority of us time to enjoy properly such an epic trip isn’t easy to have. It isn’t easy to take a full month for holidays, and even though one only needs 7 days to cross Siberia, to enjoy it properly it’s better to take a few stops, and for that 7 days isn’t enough… We need time, always time.
Do traditions make any sense? Maybe some do, but in my opinion, the commemoration of the end of a year isn’t one of them, after all, that will depend on which calendar you use. In another words, it’s just a matter of perspective. However, sometimes those traditions branch into other new traditions, more local or even family traditions, and those then start to make some sense, either sentimental or by convenience.
For me, these reviews are one of those traditions that make sense, I started writing them a few years ago (article in Portuguese), and honestly I don’t even know why I started doing that, but it became a very interesting practice. Mostly after moving to Ireland and then stumble with this surprise while reading the goals I had for that year, which I accomplished even without be aware of that. It’s quite interesting to set goals and then just let life follow its way without making a big deal out of it, and then just looking back and realizing how great our year was after all, even better than we thought. These kind of reviews always boost my mood, I look into detail how bad or great the year was, and usually things are way more positive than I expected them to be.
2015 in Review
Obviously, I’ll take into consideration my 2014 goals, which were few but precise. And honestly, I couldn’t be happier with the outcome!
Visit at least three new countries in 2015
Well, I’m not even sure where to start from…
This “travel year” started a bit late, but it was full of adventures nonetheless. In just one trip I passed through 5 new countries! Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia! One month later, I went to Scotland for the first time, and even though Scotland is (still) part of the United Kingdom, it is considered as a country (not independent). Goal achieved with distinction!
Become more active with the blog (for real)
I think this achievement is more than obvious as well! With exception for the period while I was on the road, I never missed any of my goals! The next article is regarding the blog and social platforms’ stats that are directly associated to the blog. But I guess that a total of 52 published articles, utill now, sprinkled between two languages, is a real proof that something went really well! Another goal achieved!
Paying attention to the stats and to my followers
My next article will get in more details regarding stats, but basically I worked quite hard so that I could increase the list of people that follow the blog, via twitter and Facebook, and also some other social networks where I invest some time. This was the hardest part, but also the most rewarding one, it’s possible to see in real time how the blog is doing, it was also with this background tasks where I learnt more during this year. Obviously I still have a lot to learn, and it is these background tasks that I want invest more during 2016.
And for last, an objective I added as a stretch goal.
For 2015 I also have a stretching goal, this one will be tough but hopefully I’ll do at least half of it! Ireland has an amazing tourism trail of 2500km, the Wild Atlantic Way. I plan to do this by bike in several different stages, maybe one weekend a month which would be about 200km a weekend… Yep, that’s just a stretching goal
And here it is! A massive fail! I didn’t even cycled one km of this route…, but this goal won’t be postponed either. It was just for fun, and even if it sounds like an interesting adventure to share, I won’t add as a goal to 2016.
Now the hard part! Goals… I’ll start by the easiest one then.
Visit a new continent
Yes, this one is indeed the easiest to achieve, considering I already have those flights booked, I only need to board and arrive safe and sound 🙂
Start a new series of articles
My main goal for 2016, for the blog, is to create a stronger network of followers, and in mid 2016 I would like to start inviting people to write articles for my blog, expand my contacts and introduce other bloggers to those that follow me.
Targeting the Portuguese speakers as potential followers
During 2015 I expanded, a lot, my list of followers on Twitter and Facebook, but since I decided to invest more time with writing in Portuguese, it makes also more sense to target those that in fact read the majority of my articles. So, for 2016, I want to get more people to read my articles and understand them 🙂
Stretching Goal: More articles per month
Adventures are never outdated, but due the huge amount of articles I have in queue to write, I am already publishing articles a few months behind. Even though I managed to keep the rate of published articles, that was a goal for 2015, I want to start sharing more recent articles. Therefore, after my 2016’s big trip, I’ll invest way more time to write articles, and hopefully increase the rate of published articles to one per week. And in order I can do this, I’ll need some time to write articles, so I foresee that I can only start sharing more articles after June or July. Anyway, here’s the stretch goal 🙂
And I guess this sums up everything, 2015 was an excelente year for the blog, 2016 looks bright as well packed with new adventures to share, so that’s what I hope for 🙂
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Being back from an adventure through the Balkans, it’s time to start writing about it. My first article of this series is about the route I took from Zagreb to Athens, the places I passed through and the reasons why.