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Cooler in Cappadocia

Turkey - Capadoccia

overcast 18 °C
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After last night's storm we had started to become a little paranoid. As we were flying into Kayseri airport, Chris asked if that was lightning he had seen outside. It was just the lights on the wing I replied - before looking out the window to find fork lightning! Going round and round in circles before eventually coming in to land, there were many more flashes and I just wanted to get on the ground sooner rather than later.

Having avoiding being hit, we arrived at the airport just minutes after another internal flight and so the tiny baggage hall was packed full of people. Eventually collecting our baggage after what felt like hours, we headed outside and met our transfer to Cappadocia.

Inside the hotel

Inside the hotel

An hour or so later and we made it to the hotel, where we were staying in a cave room built into the hills surrounding the small tourist town of Göreme. By now it was pitch black and so we took a quick walk around the corner to see night time views of the town lit up.

Nighttime views

Nighttime views

Originally we were supposed to arrive mid afternoon, but a few weeks ago our flight had been rescheduled, meaning we now only had one morning to explore the town. Therefore we got up early the following morning and headed up the hill again for views over the area.

Normally the sky would be full of hot air balloons, but unfortunately the weather was still not great, with risks of thunderstorms and so these had all been cancelled. It was also a lot colder than it had been elsewhere up until now, with us needing jackets all day long. In fact with a heatwave at home this weekend, it was actually hotter there! Nevertheless there were still nice views over the town, where we could see all the buildings built into the cliffs.

Views of the town

Views of the town

After heading back for breakfast before checking out of the hotel, we left the bags at the hotel and headed towards the Open Air Museum, where there were many churches carved into the rock. Upon arrival, even early in the morning it was full of tourists, and it was difficult to explore without people being in the way.

Open Air Museum

Open Air Museum

After an hour or so we had seen many of these amazing chapels, which from the inside looked like they had been constructed normally, rather than carved out from the rocks.

Inside one of the chapels

Inside one of the chapels

We then headed back into the town, which had now woken up and was full of many little souvenir shops. After buying a keyring, we slowly made our way back to the hotel for a last rest this holiday. The weather then perked up slightly and we enjoyed some final views of the town in the sun.

Göreme town

Göreme town

We were then picked up for our trip back to the airport and our final flights back to London via Istanbul Airport.

Although the holiday had been cut short by a week, we still had a nice break and got to explore new areas, as well as relax and spend time with friends, and would recommend it as somewhere interesting to visit.

Posted by kmmk17 11:13 Archived in Turkey Tagged churches hotel church cave plane turkey2019 Comments (0)

A Visit to the Vatican

Rome 2019 - Vatican City

sunny 36 °C
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Our next holiday this year was to Rome, my second time in the city after having previously visited after New Year in 2015. This time however it would be much hotter - by about 30˚C.

My cousin and aunt from New Zealand were also going to be in Rome at the same time, so after checking our plans we decided to head out on the same flight as my aunt, to be there at same time.

After working on Friday morning, we headed up to the airport and met up with my aunt just before security. Heading through and into the departure lounge we had a catch up after having not seen each other for three years.

The weather at home during this weekend was abysmal, and after sitting down in one of the restaurants, where we were joined by my sister who works up the airport and was on her break, we could see (or rather not see) the sheer level of rain hitting the roof window from outside. It was so heavy for so long that eventually one of the seals broke and the water started gushing in like an indoor waterfall. The people sat by the window themselves had to run to escape, leaving their belongings to get soaked, including one woman's entire dinner.

Flooded Airport

Flooded Airport

As we moved away due to the floor flooding, my sister called security to advise them, but they weren't interested - turns out this was by far the only place that had flooded and the whole airport was full of water. Not long after the water had broken through, the rainstorm had ended and the sun was shining again- however the sheer level of water that had entered meant it was going to take a long time to clean up. We could now see just how much rain there had been, as our view that had previously been blocked by water was now clear to see a plane at one of the gates surrounded by fire engines as it's cockpit was on fire! What an experience today!

By the time we were boarding the rain had ended and there were no problems, we took off as planned and arrived in Rome's airport a few hours later after having had a nice catch up on the journey over. Using the EU queue at immigration for what might be our last time, we headed for the train station to make our way to our hotel. Saying goodbye to my aunt until the following day in the city we finally arrived at our hotel just before midnight and after quickly settling in, headed to sleep before our next four days in the city.

Our first full day was spent at the Vatican. After breakfast we made our way to the Vatican Museums, waiting outside for my aunt and my cousin to join us. We spent the trip around the museum catching up with my cousin, who is travelling around Europe and who I hadn't seen since 2016.

Vatican Gardens

Vatican Gardens

Starting with the view of the dome and gardens we eventually made it to the highlight of the trip, the Sistine Chapel. After viewing the famous painting by Michelangelo, we headed through the secret entrance for tour groups only, luckily not being stopped and made our way directly to St. Peter's Basilica, saving us 2 hours and a wait in the hot midday sun.

Before entering the cathedral itself we made a trip up to the roof and dome. Getting the lift up, we entered around the inside rim of the dome looking down over the altar.

Inside the Dome

Inside the Dome


Walking up the dome

Walking up the dome

We then climbed up the dome itself, which at times felt like a fairground ride with slanted walls. Little did we realise at the time this is the tallest dome in the world and still meant another 231 steps after taking the lift! Nevertheless at the top the views were stunning and absolutely worth it.

Views from the top of the dome

Views from the top of the dome

After taking in the views, we headed back down to the roof before taking the lift down into the cathedral itself to explore.

Inside the Cathedral

Inside the Cathedral

We then made our way out of the cathedral and into St. Peter's Square crossing the border back into Italy.

St. Peter's Square

St. Peter's Square

By now it was early afternoon so we headed to a nearby restaurant for some food, which we followed afterwards with gelato. Having now seen the Vatican, and with three more days to explore the city, we left my aunt and cousin and headed back to the hotel via the supermarket to chill for the rest of the day.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 08:30 Archived in Vatican City Tagged rain church airport city cathedral plane border christianity Comments (4)

Castles & Towers

Lithuania & Belarus - Trakai & Vilnius

semi-overcast 27 °C
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After a busy day in Belarus, and with a flight home in the evening, we had the day to explore Vilnius properly, as well as the local area. One place I had missed on my first visit to Lithuania was Trakai, and this time I definitely wanted to visit the small town.

Still having stomach discomfort I ended up skipping most of the breakfast but was definitely on the mend a lot quicker. By the time we had checked out and headed to the bus station, I was already starting to feel a bit better and the half hour bus ride was fine.

Trakai Castle

Trakai Castle

Trakai is located just outside Vilnius, and is a small town located on a thin strip of land between two lakes. At the northern end of the town on a small island just into the lake is a large castle. This castle has now become one of the icons of Lithuania and the whole area is surrounded by gift shops, cafés and boats for hire.

Little shops on the waterfront

Little shops on the waterfront


Castle Walls

Castle Walls

We weren't bothered about visiting the insides of the castle, but we did take a walk around the island outside the walls, and edge of the lake. If we had more time this would have been a nice place to spend the day. Having taken the mini tourist bus up there from the bus station, we walked back through the pretty village on foot, and caught the next bus back to Vilnius.

We had taken a short walk around the southern part of the city centre when we had arrived on Saturday, and today we went to explore the northern part, walking back past the Town Square, before the Presidential Palace and arriving at the Cathedral Square.

Cathedral Square

Cathedral Square

After sitting and enjoying the summer sunshine in this beautiful square, we then headed towards the Gediminas Tower, and luckily found the funicular was working, saving our already aching feet from a steep walk up the hillside.

Gediminas Tower

Gediminas Tower

At the top, a lot of the castle hill was undergoing renovation which meant we couldn't see the views of the south side of the city, but the views from the north and the tower were still nice.

We then headed back down, and walked passed the St. Anne's Church and through the bohemian Užupis area before finally heading back to our hotel to collect our luggage

St. Anne's Church

St. Anne's Church

Eventually after a busy trip we made it to the airport and without any delays headed home. Unfortunately due to our long delay on the way out it meant the holiday was a little more rushed than we would have liked, but nevertheless it was still an enjoyable trip.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 10:13 Archived in Lithuania Tagged tower church lake city island hill castle lithuaniabelarus Comments (2)

Buzzing Around Berlin

Berlin

sunny 32 °C
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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)

The Rain in Spain...

all seasons in one day 20 °C
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After an afternoon in Andorra I headed back on the bus through Catalonia and arrived back by early evening in Barcelona.

Having been to Barcelona once before I was a little unsure if the city would entertain me. However as this had been a day trip over ten years ago I was proved wrong. There was more than enough to keep me occupied.

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia

I started my adventures in Barcelona by heading out to see the Sagrada Familia by night, which was nicely lit up, before heading back towards my hotel via the promenade and the ViennaSphere. However it was back at the hotel that the real adventures would happen - getting into my bathroom!

Unfortunately the bathroom lock had jammed, and as I got out the shower I found I had trouble getting back into the room. However with a little tug it was fine. I opened the window and to prevent a draft I closed the door. Going back 15 minutes later to open it I again had problems getting in. However no matter how hard I tried the door simply wouldn't open. Having to put my clothes back on I went back to the reception where the guy came back and tried to open.

Coming back after finding a ruler to try and use to open the door, he eventually resigned to the fact he "had no tools" and the mechanic wasn't coming back until tomorrow. This was fine, but how was I supposed to go to the toilet tonight? Well luckily there was a toilet opposite the room so that wasn't anything to worry about - before he left he gave one final tug and it miraculously opened. "Phew" I thought - so I quickly put my shoes in the way so that the door wouldn't slam shut again.

View over Barcelona

View over Barcelona

The next day I got up, gave the eclipse a miss due to the cloud, and placed the chair in front of the door to keep it open. I then headed out towards the old city, taking a walk past the cathedral and buying some souvenirs before taking the funicular up to the Montjuïc hill.

Inside the Olympic Stadium

Inside the Olympic Stadium


Olympic Park

Olympic Park

From the hill there are some great views of the city, and this is also where the Olympic Park from 1992 is located. I walked around, going in the Olympic Stadium before heading down the hill to Plaça d'Espanya, with its monumental gates - gaining a great view from the roof of the former Bullring, which is now a huge shopping centre.

Plaça d'Espanya

Plaça d'Espanya


Casa Batlló

Casa Batlló

After this I headed off to visit some of Gaudí Barcelona - stopping off at the Casas Batlló and Milà before heading back to the Sagrada Familía. I would today be entering and had intended to go up the towers. However due to the horrendously windy weather this wasn't possible. I therefore just made do with witnessing the massive construction from the ground.

Stained Glass inside the Sagrada Familia

Stained Glass inside the Sagrada Familia


Inside the Sagrada Familia

Inside the Sagrada Familia

After having dinner I then headed out to the last stops for the day, heading out from the Arc de Triomf and heading south through the park to the beach, where there were huge waves, showing just how windy it was today.

Arc de Triomf

Arc de Triomf

Going back to the hotel I found that the maid had moved the chair and closed the bathroom door again!! I now had to head back to reception and the fiasco continued, Luckily the mechanic was still there and so he came to fix my door.

With the WiFi also dead, I headed back out to McDonalds to use some quick WiFi when it had began to rain before going to bed for the last day of the trip.

Park Güell

Park Güell

The next morning was again pretty miserable weather wise, but as I had just one more place to visit I couldn't complain too much. I headed out of the city to Park Güell which is the best place to witness Gaudí architecture. Usually there are impressive views of the city too, but unfortunately this wasn't really to be seen.

And this is where my return to the city ended. It had been very interesting and surprisingly busy time and there is much to see in the city. If the weather had been great it would have been the icing on the cake, but even without that it was still a great time!

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Spain Tagged architecture church city hill olympic Comments (0)

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