A Travellerspoint blog

The Calming Canaries, part I

Canary Islands - Fuerteventura

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After finally getting our house sorted, we treated ourselves to a relaxing week away in the Canary Islands. Not wanting to have an exact copy of the enjoyable holiday last year, we narrowed down our choices to Greece, Cyprus or the Canaries, eventually settling on the latter. As they are geographically African, and seeing as we were flying that far I wanted to make the experience feel as North African (and less Spanish) as much as possible, and so booked two hotels - one designed like a Moroccan Kasbah and the other surrounded by dunes. Being me, I couldn't spend a week trapped on a single islands, and so we were island hopping between Fuerteventura (the one that looks like the Sahara) and Lanzarote (the one with the volcanoes and landscape like Mars).

After a week of work, we got up early on Saturday to take the journey up to the airport. Heading to our gate once boarding commenced we joined the priority queue, along with most other passengers, and somehow managed to board the plane first. Nevertheless it was still another 4 hours before we landed in Fuerteventura, and then boarded our transfer bus on to Costa Calma, where we were staying.

Most of the island is rocky, but parts are full of sand dunes. This included Costa Calma, which is built on a low lying isthmus in the south of the island. And as our hotel was on the southern edge of the town, we would have views directly over them.

View from the room

View from the room

Eventually arriving almost 12 hours after we had awoken earlier that morning, we checked in. After a bit of confusion we were told our room 'is a nice one'. Heading off to take a look ourselves, we found it on the top floor, where just a handful of rooms were located, and it had glorious views of the whole complex, including the pools, terrace and beyond over the sea, lagoon and sand dunes. Exactly what I had hoped for now were had arrived in Africa!

View of the hotel from the pools

View of the hotel from the pools

The hotel was 7 floors high, and built into the hill. The reception was on the fifth floor, at street level, whilst lower levels had the restaurant and spa, before opening to the ground floor with a turtle pool, and the outdoor pools.

Turtles within the hotel

Turtles within the hotel

Further on from the pools heading further down the hill were more rooms, which led on to a gate and a path to the beach.

Our hotel from the beach

Our hotel from the beach

By now I was already feeling tired, and after popping to the supermarket and touring the complex we made our way to our first dinner. Being the same hotel chain we stayed in the previous year, we were expecting a full range of buffet options. Although this hotel was not quite as good as that in Salou, it was still good, but my tiredness didn't allow me to enjoy it tonight as much as I would on following nights.

After an early night, the following day was to spent between the pools and the sea. After eating a big breakfast, we were fortunate to find that the pools were warm enough to swim in. We spent the morning between the pools and the sun loungers, topping up our tans, and then in the afternoon we went for a walk down the the beach, and then across towards the Lagoon.

Sotavento Lagoon

Sotavento Lagoon

We had seen the lagoon from our hotel room, and by afternoon it had filled with water, being a popular place for kitesurfers as well as people taking a dip. The lagoon is separated from the sea by two long spits, with a small opening into the sea, and it was possible to walk along the spits with a shallow amount of sea water rushing into the lagoon. This was an interesting experience, being safe yet surrounded by water.

After walking back we chilled before it was time for dinner. This time getting to full enjoy the full range of delights on offer, before enjoying Sangria on the balcony.

The beach

The beach

The following day was much the same, between the pool, sun loungers, and then off to the beach. After chilling and then dinner (this time sat on the sea view balcony, rather than inside) we took an evening walk around the area, before enjoying the final night in Fuerteventura.

The next morning we had plenty of time, as although we were crossing the island, heading for Lanzarote, we had all day. We awoke and grabbed our final breakfast in the hotel, before checking out and heading to the bus stop. Once we arrived, we saw a big crowd of people, which meant a) we were in the right place, and b) we hadn't missed the imminent bus.

With our suitcases in tow, a German suspected we were headed for the airport and came to ask me in German if we were headed to the airport. Hardly surprising, as it appeared this whole resort was mostly full of Germans, with very few English people. I replied "Ja, ich... glaube" (Yes, I think so), trying to remember which was the appropriate verb. He then realised, like most Germans do, that speaking in English was more time efficient than me speaking in broken German, and so instantly switched the conversation to English.

We explained that although we thought the bus was headed to the airport (most didn't, but coincidently this one was), it was irrelevant to us as we weren't heading there anyway. Somewhat bemused by what we were actually doing, he went on to tell us all about how he often travels here for wind surfing - leaving us to wonder why we were somehow the experts in local transport when we had never been here before and he'd been here loads. Nevertheless the bus soon turned and we headed off towards the capital of the island.

After an hour and a half we arrived in Puerto del Rossario, and had half an hour before the next bus. We decided to take a quick walk into the town as we had plenty of time, finding a small town much more traditional and different to the tourist resorts across the island.

Puerto del Rossario

Puerto del Rossario

Heading back to the bus station we had missed the next bus by a minute or so, so took the following bus on to Corralejo - the northern port town. Unfortunately the usual route through the dunes was closed, which I had hoped to jump off at, and instead headed on a route more into the island, where we could only see the dunes from a distance.

Corralejo Port

Corralejo Port

By now it was getting later, and the much cheaper ferry we had wanted to take was still well over an hour away. Instead of hanging about to see some of the town, or head to the dunes with our suitcases in tow, we decided to take the next ferry and not long later, after walking through the mouth of the ship, we island hopped to Lanzarote.

Posted by kmmk17 13:58 Archived in Spain Tagged sea beach island spain sand sun resort pool canaries Comments (0)

On The Runway

Berlin - Oranienburg & Berlin

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Our final full day in Berlin began with another visit outside the city to the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp in Oranienburg. Annoyingly on weekends the bus between the station in Oranienburg and the camp runs only every two hours, and so we ended up walking for twenty minutes rather than waiting 25 for the bus to turn up. But the walk went by quite quickly and before we knew it we had turned up at the camp.

Entry to the camp

Entry to the camp

The camp is located on the edge of the town, surrounded by nice family homes - in what appears completely out of place. The camp was free to enter and had remains and reconstructed sites - execution trenches, huts and gas chambers as well as a memorial.

Inside Sachsenhausen

Inside Sachsenhausen

After a walk around the eery site, we headed back to the station and back into the city. We spent the afternoon with a visit to Berlin Zoo, taking a look around at the range of animals, before eating and chilling back at the hotel.

At the Zoo

At the Zoo

Our flight home the following day was in the late afternoon, and so after enjoying breakfast and packing, we left the hotel with baggage in tow and headed via a few sights en route to the airport.

Our first was the former airport of Tempelhof, where it is now possible to walk amongst the former runway.

Not this runway

Not this runway

Hoping locals wouldn't tell us that the airport is actually closed (as we were clearly tourists on our way to the airport), we made our way out and stopped off at Treptower Park, for a view of the Soviet War Memorial, reminiscent of those in CIS countries - such as Mother Motherland in Kyiv and The Motherland Calls in Volgograd

Treptower Park

Treptower Park

And that was it for our trip, a long weekend in Berlin was over already, with us back at Schönefeld Airport ready for our flight home.
The city is always fun to visit, much to see and do and never quite enough time to see it all without being super busy!

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 11:44 Archived in Germany Tagged animals park airport memorial zoo city berlin war macabre Comments (0)

The Palaces of Potsdam

Berlin - Potsdam

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After a busy day in the centre of Berlin, today we were going outside the city to Potsdam, home of the Prussian Kings, and capital of the German province of Brandenburg, which surrounds Berlin. Unlike the rest of the trip, which was mostly to places I had seen on previous trips to Berlin, the journey to Potsdam was a new experience for me.

Glienicke Bridge

Glienicke Bridge

We began by heading down to the Glienicke Bridge on the border of Berlin and Brandenburg. This bridge was closed during the Cold War, and used for the transfer of spies. Now reopened, we were able to walk into the former East Germany.

Potsdam High Street

Potsdam High Street

We then got on a tram and arrived in the centre of Potsdam, walking down the main shopping street, stopping for ice cream, before making our way into the Sanssouci Park, where the palaces of the city are located.

Sanssouci Palace

Sanssouci Palace

We began by walking firstly towards the impressive Sanssouci Palace, overlooking the park above terraces and a water fountain, before continuing along the central path towards the New Palace

Orangery Palace

Orangery Palace

This park was huge, but also cool and shady, and whilst walking through every few minutes the view of another palace came into view.

New Palace

New Palace

After reaching the New Palace we headed north to the bus stop to make our way back to Berlin. Annoyingly there were construction works on the train line, and so we had to get a replacement bus from Potsdam to Wannsee, which was a bit of a nightmare to find, but eventually we were on our way back to the city.

With it being mid-afternoon, we decided to make our way back to the hotel via the Olympic Stadium, built for the 1936 Olympics. We had originally planned to go inside, but as our feet were aching, and only guided tours permitted (due to the imminent hosting of the European Athletics Championships) we decided to head back to the hotel instead after viewing from outside.

Olympic Stadium

Olympic Stadium

By now we were very tired, but with another full day yet to come we spent the rest of the evening chilling in the hotel and claiming another free drink from the bar!

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 04:25 Archived in Germany Tagged park palace bridge city berlin border royal olympic Comments (0)

Buzzing Around Berlin

Berlin

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After many short city breaks, our Berlin trip was going to be slightly longer - four nights in total. However even that did not seem enough!

We started the first day with a delay on our early afternoon flight, meaning we didn't manage to arrive in Berlin until early evening. We stopped off en route at the East Side Gallery, where the longest stretch of remaining Berlin Wall was turned into an art gallery, with many different murals by various artists.

East Side Gallery

East Side Gallery

We then continued on to grab some dinner before heading to the hotel via the supermarket. By now it was already getting late, so we decided to stay put and carry out the rest of our sightseeing in the following days. Although upon arrival we did find an interesting policy by the hotel - in return for not having our room cleaned the following day, we would get a free drink at the bar. As we'd just arrived we decided the free drink was a better idea, so we headed down to claim it.

Upon ordering, I decided to have a wine spritzer, however the German barmaid had never heard of this! (despite being in the limited menu) and asked what this was in German - "Schorle". A little surprising, I thought, as spritzer is clearly a German word - although evidently not used in these parts! After a good night's sleep, we awoke the next morning and ate breakfast before heading out for our first day of sightseeing.

Today we would be seeing the sights in the city centre. We had prebooked entry to the Reichstag Dome, and so had to keep to schedule. We started by heading round the corner from our hotel, to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. Much like that of Coventry, it was an old cathedral almost destroyed during the Second World War, with the ruins kept as a memorial and a modern church built next door.

Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church

Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church


Checkpoint Charlie

Checkpoint Charlie

Next, we headed out to the city centre, and to Checkpoint Charlie - the only foreign public crossing point during the days of the Berlin Wall. We then continued along the line of the wall towards the Topography of Terror, on the site of the Gestapo Headquarters, which detailed the history of the rise of the Nazis, and their rule, all in this geographical area of the city.

Our journey then took us to Potsdammer Platz, a modern business district built upon the old Berlin Wall site, before heading north past Tierpark and arriving at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews. This memorial is made up of rows of concrete pillars across a sloping field, which reach up to 5 metres tall and can be walked between.

Inside the memorial to the Jews

Inside the memorial to the Jews


Brandenburg Gate

Brandenburg Gate

After taking a walk around this memorial, we then stopped by the Brandenburg Gate, the iconic German landmark, separated on the line of the Berlin Wall, where we took lots of photos, before continuing on to the Reichstag - Parliament Building.

Reichstag

Reichstag

We first viewed the building from the outside, before entering through the security check and up onto the roof itself. The building is from 1894, but has been unused for most of the time since, with the inside being completely new, from the 1990s. The dome was a modern replacement for the original cupola and is open to the public as a viewing platform, and views of the surrounding area and inside the centre of the Bundestag (Parliament) can be seen.

Inside the Reichstag Dome

Inside the Reichstag Dome

After touring the roof, we headed back down and walked past the new government buildings to the north, towards the Friedrichstraße station. The station was unique as it was located within East Berlin, and yet functioned as a border post. The reason why, was that the city was divided after the existence of the underground transport network, which cut across lines in the city. Remarkably, it was agreed that lines that crossed the border would not necessarily have to close. Those that ran West to West, via the East were allowed to stay open, but with the stations in East Berlin closed and functioning as ghost stations.

Even more remarkable, was that there was one station in the east - Friedrichstraße, that intersected with both sides. Being a major transport hub, the East decided to fence off the station, with some platforms serving interchanges between lines solely for West Berliners, as well as interchanges for East Berlin lines. There was also a border post within the station that enabled those few who were able to cross sides a point in which to do so. easily.

Inside the present, fully open, Friedrichstraße Station

Inside the present, fully open, Friedrichstraße Station

To the north of the station, an entrance was built that would serve as the non-transport-connection border post for Easterners heading to the West. It was called the Tränenpalast (Palace of Tears) as for many crossing here it would be a sad event, leaving behind friends and family. It is now used as an exhibition for the story of this time, and even had a border checkpoint from the time for visitors to experience.

After taking a look at this exhibition, we got on a tram and headed towards Museum Island. Stopping first off at Bebelplatz where there is a monument to the burning of books during the rise of the Nazis, before continuing past the Cathedral and the Old Museum.

Berlin Cathedral

Berlin Cathedral

Stopping off for some refreshment, we then went inside the DDR Museum - a museum dedicated to the life inside East Germany, which included a recreated East German flat.

The living room in the East German flat at the DDR Museum

The living room in the East German flat at the DDR Museum

After looking around the museum, we then made our way over to Alexanderplatz, the heart of East Berlin, where after a bit of shopping, I went inside the Park Inn by Radisson Hotel, which has a balcony on the 40th floor open to the public, with views over the city, including the nearby TV Tower.

View over Alexanderplatz

View over Alexanderplatz

Our final place for today was further north, at Bernauer Straße, where part of the Berlin Wall has been recreated, with a viewing platform across the road. After taking a look at how life would have been just thirty years ago, we travelled back to our hotel via the underground station, which had information about the ghost stations on the network.

Bernauer Straße

Bernauer Straße

After stopping off at the supermarket we then went out for a German dinner in the restaurant around the corner. After surviving being hounded by wasps, we then went back to the hotel for an evening chill after the busy day before we would continue our adventures tomorrow.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 10:48 Archived in Germany Tagged church city museum berlin cathedral parliament wall border war Comments (0)

Destination Dublin

Ireland - Dublin

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Having finished up the sights in Belfast in the morning, we made it to the bus station for our onward travel to Dublin.

The trip wasn't originally going to include the Irish capital, but with it being pretty easy to get to as well as pretty cheap, we decided to include it on the end of the trip. It would also give us the opportunity to cross the border again, as well as fly back to the UK without needing to go through immigration.

Unfortunately, despite the bus being pretty empty, some irritating children sat right behind us the whole journey; but with it being just over two hours it didn't take too long before we would be free of them.

Emigration Museum

Emigration Museum

Arriving in the late afternoon, we headed just around the corner to the Irish Emigration Museum, where I might find out more about my Irish heritage, whilst Chris hoped he might find out he has some too. The museum seemed to capitalise on anyone with any Irish blood in them - even though the state probably wouldn't give citizenship to half of them.

After a little time looking around, we headed out into the city, and headed to a restaurant for dinner before we headed to our hotel on the outskirts of the city centre.

Temple Bar

Temple Bar

The following morning we made a tour of the city, beginning at the government buildings, before heading through the Temple Bar. Unfortunately with our trip being pretty busy, we didn't get chance to stop there the night before or today. However it was very pretty with the flower boxes and cobbled streets.

Guinness Factory

Guinness Factory

We then continued on to Dublin Castle, before heading out of the heart of the city to the St. James's Gate at the Guinness Factory. This whole area felt like a hyper-reality you'd expect in a theme park, as it was clearly Victorian, and yet was very well kept, unlike most similar Victorian factory areas.

Ha'penny Bridge

Ha'penny Bridge

After this we headed back into the city to cross the Ha'penny bridge over the Liffey, before our final sight - the Garden of Remembrance.

Garden of Rememberance

Garden of Rememberance

After a quick tour of the city it was now time to make our way home, heading to the airport after a busy trip away in a surprisingly sunny and warm Ireland.

Posted by kmmk17 12:27 Archived in Ireland Tagged river bridge city ireland museum border Comments (0)

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