Cappadocia – splendor of Turkey

Cappadocia – splendor of Turkey

After a short general walk through of the main tourist destinations in Turkey, now it’s time to turn towards a rather unknown but majestically beautiful place called Cappadocia.

Situated in the Eastern, more Islamic part of the country, Cappadocia is a rising tourist destination, with many areas benefiting from unique geological, historical, and cultural features. The main cities of the region are Nevsehir, Kayseri, Aksaray and Nigde. There are regular flights from Istanbul or Ankara to Kayseri airport, but rail connections have also improved in recent years. As we mentioned in our previous article on Turkey, the best way to get around the region is by car; so either bring your own or rent one.

courtesy of bgr.bund.de

courtesy of bgr.bund.de

One place you really have to visit, when in Cappadocia, is the “Fairy Chimneys” rock formation, near the city of Goreme. These sedimentary rocks were formed by lakes, streams and ignimbrite deposits that erupted from ancient volcanoes approximately 9 to 3 million years ago. The view is spectacular, many Turks choosing to take their wedding photos there. It’s a truly magical place – the fact that you can rent a hot air balloon and fly over this fascinating sea of pointy stones makes it even more interesting.

courtesy of e-turkey.net/

courtesy of e-turkey.net

Trekking is very popular in the region. The Mars-looking features of the landscape in Cappadocia offer a unique experience to wilderness lovers all around the world. Don’t worry about getting lost – the Turkish police will find you, eventually (!). The most popular trekking destinations are the Ihlara Valley, Monastery Valley (Guzelyurt), Urgup and Goreme.

courtesy of onemillionpicture.com

courtesy of onemillionpicture.com

Finally, one should not leave Cappadocia without taking a tour of the magnificent mansions and cave houses. People living in the Cappadocian villages carved out houses, churches and monasteries in the soft rocks of volcanic deposits one can find everywhere. Göreme became a monastic center based mainly on rock churches in 300–1200 AD. Nowadays, tourists can have the full experience; some of these houses or palaces being rented out by locals, so that people can spend a couple of nights living like their ancestors. Most of the rentals are located in Urgup, Goreme, Guzelyurt and Uchisar.

courtesy of kayseri.bel.tr

courtesy of kayseri.bel.tr

Trips to local urban centers, such as Kayseri or Aksaray, are also worthwhile. The atmosphere is more Middle Eastern than in the Western part of the country. You’ll see a lot of people going to mosques and more women wearing traditional veils. Each of these towns has their own bazaar, so you’ll definitely find things to spend your money on.

Tips for your trip are pretty similar to the ones mentioned in the main article on Turkey: keep track of your money, but also of your ID or passport – migrant smugglers are known to steal documents of people that resemble the ones they want to smuggle; keep away from street protests or potential local unrest, but ultimately, try to enjoy your time there – it’s a place that you won’t forget, for sure.

Turkey – Western flavor in the Orient

Turkey – Western flavor in the Orient

At the crossroads of Europe and Asia, between the Black and the Mediterranean Seas, lies Turkey, the most Westernized and liberal of the Muslim countries. With almost 80 million inhabitants, it’s one of the biggest states in the Islamic world, helping the Turks see themselves as the leaders of Allah’s subjects.

Prominently located in what is today called “Little Asia”, the largest part of Turkish territory lies in Asia, while a small smudge, including Istanbul, in Europe. A long time ago, the Turks have been the leaders of one of the most powerful states that ever existed, the Ottoman Empire. They conquered most of North Africa, large parts of Europe, as well as Persia. After the collapse of the Empire, at the end of WWI, Turkey denounced its Muslim heritage and started looking westwards. This created the mix of Islamic traditions and Western thinking that is today the Turkish society.

courtesy of agbuyp.org

courtesy of agbuyp.org

Probably the most important touristic hot spot that everybody knows about is Istanbul. This 10 million people metropolis was the capital of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires for the last 1000 years (now, the capital is Ankara). Major landmarks can be found in Istanbul, such as: the Topkapi Palace – former seat of the Ottoman sultans, who enjoyed a lavish lifestyle while they conquered the rest of the known world, the Hagia Sofia – a former Christian church, transformed into a mosque after Istanbul was conquered by the Turks in the 15th century, the Maiden’s Tower, situated on a small island in the middle of the Bosphorus Strait (it was also featured in the James Bond movie “The World is Not Enough”). The city itself is an interesting experience: going through the Grand Bazaar, avoiding the infernal traffic, taking a boat trip on the river – all these added-up will surely make you enjoy your time in Istanbul.

courtesy of thewrongwayhome.com

courtesy of thewrongwayhome.com

The vastness of Turkey has more to offer than just its biggest city. The Southern part, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, is exotic and warm in all seasons, making it the ideal place to spend a nice family holiday in a 5-star all-inclusive hotel. Kids playing beach games and you sleeping on the sea bed; sounds good, eh? The best places to do this are Antalya and Alanya (Antalya airport has flights coming in from all over Europe or Asia, so you’ll get there easily).

courtesy of designlaunches.com

courtesy of designlaunches.com

More to the West, the city of Izmir and its surroundings are just superb. The so-called “White Sea” in Pamukkale, made out of limestone, is a definite must do. You can bathe in the waters that are caught in natural pools made out of limestone, in crystal clear water that suddenly becomes white, because of the material on which it stays.

Probably the best way to travel through Turkey is by car. Rental companies are everywhere in the big cities, mostly around airports, and fees are a bit lower than the ones in Western Europe. Public transport has also improved in recent years, but only in the Western part of the country.

A few definite top tips: guard your wallet and keep your eyes open, because Turkey is scam heaven – from the money exchange, to the hotel clerk and taxi driver, everyone will try to fool you into giving them money or buying crap – keep a clear evidence of the money you have and always keep spare notes in your hotel room, just in case; don’t get involved in any street protests or similar things – police tend to be brutal sometimes and you don’t want your vacation ending at the hospital.  Make sure that you get health insurance – hospitals in Turkey are some of the best in Europe, but they come with a “spectacular” price tag. Nothing more to say, except: have fun!

How to date Bulgarian girls

written by our friend Cosmin

How to date Bulgarian women, for dummies.

As you’ve probably noticed, we’re putting a great deal of importance on human interaction, when going abroad and visiting. This is why we’ve offered you some advice on how to hook up with beautiful girls all around. Now, it’s time to take a look at one of the most beautiful, but also the poorest countries in Europe: Bulgaria.

One doesn’t really need a specific reason to visit Bulgaria: if you’re into city breaks, just pick up your backpack, grab a flight to Sofia and spend an interesting couple of days in the country’s vibrant capital, the spectacular mountains or the confortable beaches.

courtesy of pixshark.com

courtesy of pixshark.com

Once you’re there, you obviously don’t want to spend your time alone, do you? Well… lucky you, because you’ve apparently landed in the right place.

Similar to Czech girls, Bulgarians come in two categories: either smoking hot or very, very ugly. Tough luck pal; you’ll have to work a bit to find a nice one.

courtesy of news.bgfashion.net

courtesy of news.bgfashion.net

Local girls are classy, elegantly dressed (a bit too in love with sparkling materials, but, then again, what girl isn’t) and kinda’ fancy. They also have a strong taste for adventure – some of the Bulgarians that I met were into activities like skiing, mountain biking or wind surfing, so, if you think you can stand a high level of adrenaline, then you know where to take them.

If you’re not Bear Grylls, don’t hesitate to ask for a normal date – movie, dinner, a walk in the park. Sofia has a lot of opportunities with regard to that: some of the biggest urban parks in Europe are in the capital of Bulgaria.

courtesy of http://coffeeticks.my/ courtesy of http://coffeeticks.my//caption

 

The clubs and bars spread around Sofia are also a good place to go for a night out and meet your first Bulgarian girl. This Balkan country is probably the only place I’ve never seen packs of 5-6 girls in clubs. They are usually in smaller groups, of 1 or 2 (maybe 3), making them easier to approach. Dance, talk, touch – pretty classic tactics that will get you going all night long.

Maybe one thing you should be aware of is that they expect a man to support (to be ready “pay”) every common activity. Be sure that you have enough money with you at all times – you never know when she might want cotton candy or a pet raccoon. It’s also a good sign to tell her about your life in your home country: what car you drive, what do you do – if you’re more open to them, then they will be the same.bulgarian-girls

A 3-4 hour car ride from the capital, there is the magnificent Bulgarian seaside. If you haven’t gotten lucky yet, then here you surely will. Places like Sunny Beach, Golden Sands, Albena or Burgas are packed with tourists, but also with beautiful girls looking to have a bit of fun during their vacation. The numerous nightclubs or bars are ideal places to meet the most beautiful (and lightly dressed) girls you’ve ever seen.

A couple of tips: as I’ve mentioned before in our pieces on Romania and Hungary, don’t believe whatever you hear – some people just want your money and not your heart (or…); although you’ll probably have to pay for everything, prices in Bulgaria are among the cheapest in Europe so lucky you; get sun cream – the country can become a bit tropical during summertime and you don’t want to pick up girls looking like a tomato. I think you’re good to go – over and out!

A taste of Belgium Beer

written by cosmin

Belgium. Land of Beer

We’ve mentioned before that Belgium is mainly known for two things: its food and its beer. While the former has been extensively analyzed right here, the latter we seem to have neglected… until now.

Belgium has a long history of producing beer (local breweries are historically mentioned in chronicles from the beginning of the 10th century). The drink has been profiled as the national beverage of Belgium, with many local breweries (over 180, at the last count) making their own, different type of lager.

courtesy of en.wikipedia.org

courtesy of en.wikipedia.org

One important sort worth mentioning is monks’ beer, locally called trappist. This type of lager is heavily protected by the government with very strict rules regarding the production process and the producers. Because of this, there are only six manufacturers of this type of lager: Achim, Westmalle, Orval, Chimay, Rochefort, and Westvleteren, all taking the names of the monasteries that house them. While some of the trappist beers can be found in supermarkets and shops (like Orval and Chimay), some can only be ordered online (like the Westvleteren Yellow Cap) for prices going up to 100 euros a six pack.

courtesy of cafedetempelier.com

courtesy of cafedetempelier.com

The monasteries that didn’t make the trappist benchmarks have not given up. :) They sell the so-called abbey beer (in French biére d’Abbaye). The most known are Maredsous, Grimbergen (the abbey itself is worth a visit – it’s just outside Brussels) and Triple Karmeliet. All are blonde and strong, with up to 8% in alcohol content. Tripel Karmeliet is the one you should try, especially together with a big side of fries with ketchup and mayonnaise.

One type that I, personally, like very much is white beer. It’s basically beer made out of wheat, instead of barley (or a combination of the both). Hoegaarden is the biggest producer of white beer, with several different flavors on the market, including simple, cherry, lemon, radler and some other stuff that I can’t remember (probably because of too much beer).belgium-beers

If all these don’t meet your tastes, you can also find the classic pils-type beer. Stella Artois is the biggest brand (a trip to Leuven to do a tour of their factory is definitely worthwhile), together with Jupiler. You’ll find these two beers in almost every shop, restaurant, pub or tourist attraction you will go to.

courtesy of beeradvice.com.au

courtesy of beeradvice.com.au

For your female companions that don’t really like the fact that I’m telling you all this :), you can find a beer type called kriek, which is basically cherry beer. It’s a mild, sweet lager that will surely meet the requirements of your wife/girlfriend in terms of taste and flavor. One particular brand that people seem to be very fond of is called Mort Subité (that is “sudden death” in French; no worries – it’s no Spring-break alcohol bomb).

courtesy of travelandbeer.com

courtesy of travelandbeer.com

A big part of the beer tradition in Belgium is the style of the glasses from which you drink it. Every beer producer has styled their own glasses for their beers, in order to create a classy and effective experience when drinking them. Often, beer glasses are available to buy, either in souvenir shops or in supermarkets (or you can just take them from the pub – they have so many of them, they don’t really care).

Finally, just one top tip before you can go off to the pub: don’t come to Belgium thinking that you’re a skilled drinker; because you’re not. Alcohol content in local beers varies between 6 and 15%, so even two 330 ml glasses of booze can get you singing your way home. Be careful how much you drink and how fast, because you don’t want to end your holiday in an ambulance or in a ditch. Saluté!

Luxembourg travel tourist attractions

Luxembourg... or land of luxury and banks…

So I’ve mentioned before that Belgium is a small Western European country. Well… if we’re talking smallest of them all, then Luxembourg is the place to be.

Squished between France, Belgium and Germany, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg (fancy name, isn’t it?) is a country with only a couple of hundred thousand inhabitants and one of the biggest GDP per capita in the world; so at the same time, the smallest and the richest country in Europe.

The Grand Duchy has been around for more than 500 years, having its origins somewhere in post-medieval Europe. The local population mostly speaks French, but also German and the weirdly sounding Luxembourgish. Most of the people based here either work in the institutions of the European Union (the top court of Europe is based here) or in financial corporations (Luxembourg is known for being a fiscal paradise).

courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org

courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org

The landscape is spectacular, the capital city (also named Luxembourg) being built in and above a valley. You can arrive either by train (from France, Belgium or Germany), by car or by plane on the small airport located just outside the capital. Hotels are mostly luxurious and quite expensive, but as you wonder outside of the city proper, they get a bit cheaper. Nevertheless, if you’re not good on your cash, it may not be the best place for you – prices are over the European average and a lot of basic stuff (like water or McDonalds) can be unavailable to the average Joe.luxembourg-tourist-attractions

The main attractions in Luxembourg are located in the capital: one really impressive thing is the cathedral, dating back to the 16th century. It’s placed on ridge, just on top of the main valley – worth a visit. The main square of the city, where the Grand Duke’s palace (now the parliament), the town hall and a lot of souvenir shops are located, is probably the place where most people will go.  But the biggest attraction is the view: a short walk through the city center will make you understand that being located in a valley has its advantages.

The Royal Wedding . courtesy of en.people.cn

The Royal Wedding . courtesy of en.people.cn

Luxembourgish people are generally nice, although you might not meet any of them during your stay. Having that it’s a very international place, most of the people roaming around are from all over: Europe, America, even Japan… There’s also a huge Portuguese community in the tiny principality – literally, every other person is from Portugal or either speaks Portuguese (bus drivers, cabbies, even tour guides).

luxembourg-tourist-attractions

There are two big downsides to Luxembourg travel: one is the weather – the fact that the entire country is literally in a valley means that it will attract cold air and clouds, so if you get to enjoy sunshine the day you visit, consider yourself lucky. The second one is the nightlife – almost all the bars and cafés close at 10 PM and there are very few clubs that are open all year round. So if you’re in to partying and wet T-shirt contests, Luxembourg is probably not the place for you.

Either than that, it’s worth a trip. Allez Lux!

How to date Irish girls

written by Cosmin

How to date an Irish girl, for dummies

First of all, it should be mentioned that you don’t have to go to Ireland in order to find a girl that puts a four-leaf clover in her hair every morning. As opposed to Hungarian and Romanian girls, the Irish are spread all around the world, most of them living outside the tiny island in the Atlantic.

You’re in New York; or Paris; or Barcelona for that matter. How do you see that a girl is from Ireland? Well… if she’s blonde, blue-eyed, with fancy, but not posh clothes on her, and can drink the liver out of everybody else without falling on her head (like English girls do, for e.g.), then she’s probably Irish.

courtesy of thejournal.ie

courtesy of thejournal.ie

The first Irish girl that I’ve ever met had the “blondest” hair and the biggest smile I’ve ever seen, but she also had a “cheeky” (they love to use that word all the time) way of interacting with the people around her. She was beautiful, but in a different way than what I was used to before. That Celtic origin of the Irish really has a word to say regarding their looks.

You’ll usually meet them in bars or clubs, especially in the summer, in places like Spain, Italy, Greece or the French Côte d’Azur. The beach is not their thing – they get easily sunburnt, so they won’t hang out a lot on the sand. Summer is not only vacation time for them, but also when they’re the most approachable and willing to find partners. Especially, partners that aren’t Irish.

courtesy of irishpressreleases.ie

courtesy of irishpressreleases.ie

So… say you’re in Corfu: go out in the evening, get yourself a pint at the bar and just wait. Sometime after 11 o’clock, a pack of blonde girls will come rolling in. If they’re so drunk that they can’t even talk, then they’re English and you want nothing to do with them. If not, then they’re Irish.

Don’t expect them to all be models or volleyball players. Take a slick look around and target the two best-looking girls. Make sure they notice that you’re looking, but not too much. Take your time and plan your move carefully. Then just go up to them and tell them that you thought one of girls was your high-school/uni/work buddy from Cork or something. Then just say: “Oh! sorry..”, ask them “you’re from Ireland, aren’t you?” and from there on you can handle it.. Throw in a bit of Sloancha! (that’s “Cheers!” in Irish) and you’re done for the night.

courtesy of dating.co

courtesy of dating.co

Some things that you should probably know before you start: it’s common in Ireland that the boy pays for the drink, so you should probably have enough cash with you for 10 or something beers and some whiskeys; even if you don’t like her or she’s just too annoying to stand (might happen!), treat her with respect and part ways nicely – the Irish usually have large families and you never know how close a brother that can throw you in a trash bin is; don’t think you’re an awesome drinker – she’s probably gonna’ put you to sleep if you start a drinking contest; don’t get offended on jokes or slick remarks on their side (the Irish, in general, are a very frank and outspoken people, but very friendly) and, finally, be careful with the pack – if they see you aiming for one of their friends, the other members of the group will try to test you; so don’t start accepting drinks from everybody or answering all questions – they’re probably just tricks. Enough said: go and get yourself a Celtic girl!

Hooking up with czech girls

How to date a Czech girl, for dummies

As we’ve talked in our article on Hungarian girls, recent years have brought a whole surge of foreign tourists to Central Europe. Aside from Budapest, another main destination is Prague, dubbed by some people as the most beautiful city in Europe.

Prague and the Czech Republic, in general, have for long been a kind of reclusive place, somewhere behind the Iron Curtain, with very few foreign visitors. That has somehow molded the mindset of Czech people and, especially, women towards foreigners; making the locals as open as a baseball field with regard to the non-Czech.

courtesy of www.wall321.com

courtesy of http://www.wall321.com/caption

This article is somehow useless, because Czech girls are some of the most open, friendly, but also, unfortunately, slutty women that I’ve ever met. Just do a quick search on the Internet for indecent movies with girls from this country and your computer will grind to a halt because of so many results.

I’ve been to Prague two times and the girls I’ve seen on the streets and in bars there vary between gorgeous and ugly as hell. So you’ve got a 50-50 chance of making a fool of yourself in front of your buddies or gaining superstar status for the next two months.

[caption id="attachment_3419" align="aligncenter" width="300"]courtesy of bleacherreport.com courtesy of bleacherreport.com

As everywhere, the easiest place to pick up girls are bars and nightclubs, but I guess picking up on the street would also work out in the Czech Republic. The locals usually drink beer (the national beverage of the country) and prices are lower than in Western Europe or the US, so you won’t have big problems buying drinks for your lady friends.

Despite the fact that girls usually go around in groups of 3 or 4, I wouldn’t go for the whole group if I were you. Then you’ll have to pay for shots or drinks for the whole team and most of the time it’s just not worth it. Better yet, wait for them to split up, so one or two remain alone and then make your move.

courtesy of www.missosology.info courtesy of http://www.missosology.info/caption

As a foreigner, you won’t have many problems finding chitchat topics, as they’re always interested in other cultures or people. Talk to them about where you come from, what do you do and also ask them a bit about their country. Always be courageous with the Czechs; they like a brave man that takes lead and is insistent – even if they reject you in the first place and you really like that specific girl, then try again; they’re just testing you.

courtesy of www.expatify.com courtesy of http://www.expatify.com/caption

Don’t be afraid to ask for things and do crazy stuff – you’ll be surprised how open they are. Buy flaming shots, drink from their body, pop up champagne – you know, things that Floyd Mayweather would do, just that 10 times more expensive. If you follow this line the whole evening, I highly doubt it that you won’t get some…

Final tips: none. Maybe be aware of scammers, as everywhere in Central and Eastern Europe, but I wouldn’t be too afraid of that on the part of the Czech; you’ll usually get what you want so fast, that they wont have much reason to scam you anymore. Nazdravie!

History behind Romanian culture

Romania – whirlpool of cultures and traditions

As we’ve seen in our previous piece on Romania, it is a country that has always been at the intersection of major cultures and societies. This has had a great influence on the Romanian culture proper. Nowadays, what we call “culture” in this Eastern European state is practically a sum of numerous “borrowed” things that have been adapted to the local setting.

One of the main pillars on which Romania’s mental setting and cultural landscape is built is its Latinity. Even the name of the country sends readers thinking of ancient Rome, and so it should be. As opposed to many of its neighbors, Romania does not have a Slavic language, but a Latin one (very close to Italian, actually); and does not use the Cyrillic alphabet, but the Latin script. Its people are brunette, olive oil-skinned, with greater resemblances with the Spanish, rather than the Russians. Because of its Latinity, Romania has always had a Western-oriented society, thinking of itself together with its Latin brothers

Calligraphy in a Latin Bible of AD 1407 - http://en.wikipedia.org/

Calligraphy in a Latin Bible of AD 1407 – http://en.wikipedia.org//caption

The second pillar is Christianity, Eastern Christianity. Romanians are predominantly Orthodox, with a large minority of Roman and Greek Catholics (located mostly in Transylvania). For centuries, this was one of the reasons why Russia exerted influence over the country and, at some point, tried to engulf it. In recent years, since joining the EU and moving towards the West, Orthodoxy has been left aside and somehow lost its importance. Despite this fact, some of the most important monuments that Romania has to offer are churches and monasteries – magnificent examples of Orthodox architecture can be found in the Northern region of Bucovina or in Wallachia.

[caption id="attachment_3394" align="aligncenter" width="300"]courtesy of romaniadacia.wordpress.com courtesy of romaniadacia.wordpress.com

The third pillar is the Turkish influence – probably the worst one that Romania has come under. Romanian cuisine is a result of it, with several dishes (including sarmale – the national dish) originating from Turkey. Cooking in Romania is mainly based on meat and vegetables, and it consists of soups (locally named ciorba), steaks, vegetable lasagnas (musaca) and baked products (cozonac – a kind of Italian pannetonne and papanasi – fried dough balls dipped in sour cream and marmalade).

courtesy of www.restaurant-casa-don.ro Sarmale- http://www.restaurant-casa-don.ro/caption

Food is not the only thing that Turkey brought over – the culture of corruption is another important “gift”. The tradition of paying for bypassing obstacles or legal procedures has been a trademark of the Ottoman Empire and the way it saw social relations. Unfortunately, the same style was adopted by the Romanian people, but, in recent years, great strives have been made in order to renounce it.

What has come out of this whole mélange: contemporary Romania. A country that sees itself as a part of the West, with examples of classical French and German architecture all around the country and a Western mentality to its citizens, but that, at the same time, has to live with its Orthodox and Turkish heritage. This makes Romania a prime example of a somehow broken society, fighting its way out of an intersection of cultures. Which makes it even more interesting for visitors. You’ll see what I mean when you land in Bucharest: big modern airport but filled with taxi drivers that can’t wait to scam some money off of you.

Cruisin the Danube river

Cruising through Central Europe

As you may have noticed if you’ve ever looked at a map of Europe is the enormous number of rivers that crisscross its lands. One of the biggest (and most spectacular, for that matter) is the Danube.

It’s for long been dubbed the second longest river in Europe (after the Volga that only flows through the territory of the Russian Federation), running for almost 3000 km from Western to Eastern Europe and creating a source of living for peoples on its banks, as it has done for millenia. The Danube traverses 10 European countries: it’s source is in Germany, in the Black Forest mountain range, continuing its way through Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova and Ukraine before gently slipping into the Black Sea through its magnificent delta.

courtesy of travel-liguria.com

courtesy of travel-liguria.com

Cruises are frequently organized by tourism operators, the general starting points being Vienna or Budapest, ending in Sulina or Sf. Gheorghe, in the Danube Delta, in Romania. Conditions on these ships range from 3 stars to luxurious 5-start hotel boats, accommodating even the most pretentious type of guests.

courtesy http://www.dontibbits.com/

courtesy http://www.dontibbits.com//caption

These cruises are the most appropriate way to do a complete tour of Central Europe and the North of the Balkans. Boats generally stop for 2 days in the main cities along the way. Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest, and Belgrade are some examples, with numerous monuments, museums and shops to visit. Moreover, the sights of Budapest with its amazing castles and bridges, or of Belgrade, with its spectacular view over the hills on which the city is built, both seen at night, are astonishing.

But besides the urban treasures, the most important objectives along the Danube are the natural ones.  The Croatian Kopacki Rit, a series of marshlands that have formed on the left bank of the Danube, is an important stop if you’re looking to see unique wildlife roaming free in its natural habitat – in fact, the Rit is actually a mini-Delta of sorts.

[caption id="attachment_3388" align="aligncenter" width="225"]courtesy of cruises.about.com courtesy of cruises.about.com

Your next stop should be the Iron Gates (powerful name, isn’t it?) These are actually a series of gorges formed by the Danube when it meets the Carpathian Mountains. Located between Romania and Serbia, the Gates offer a splendid view of the river digging its way through the rocky labyrinth, but also numerous leisure possibilities: in recent years, a lot of hotels with swimming pools, jetties with speedboats and ski jets to hire, tennis courts and many others have opened in this area.

the-danube-river

Finally, towards the end of your trip, one destination should not be missed: the Danube Delta. It’s probably the most impressive attraction along its course and one of the biggest wildlife areas in Europe. The sense of wilderness and peacefulness that it gives you (helped by, among others, the fact that there are almost no cars or roads in the Delta) is truly unique. Sulina or Sf. Gheorghe, situated at the very end of the Delta, are the places to be: they have enough tourism infrastructure to fit all tastes and they are located near the sea, so you can go to the beach.

And, to end, a few top tips: along your way, don’t try to feed any animals or pluck any plants – many of them are rare and tend to be very well protected by state authorities – so protected, that you might even go to jail; stop in as many places as possible along your way – while we’ve only talked about the main attractions, there is much more to see over the 3000 km of the Danube’s course; and do visit the lighthouse situated on a smudge of sand at the point where the Danube meets the Black Sea – the view is spectacular and you can literally see how new land is formed out of the sediments brought by the river. Enough for now: have a pleasant journey!

Belgium food

Food à la Belge

So… after the previous articles, we’ve convinced you to visit Belgium. You’re there; you visit places, travel, meet people… What else is to do in this small country? Well… you could eat!

Belgian cuisine has for a long time been considered one of the best that Western Europe has to offer. Although not as developed and well known as the French one, as meaty as the German one and as pale as the Dutch one, the Belgian food can be considered a combination of all these. Some have described it as being “French food in German portions”. belgium-food

The most known product of Belgium is frites (that’s “Fries” in French/Dutch). The label “French fries” has its origins in First World War Europe. At that time, American soldiers used to eat small potato pieces from their Belgian counterparts, but because the Belgians spoke French, they mistakenly dubbed them “French fries”. In fact, they are entirely Belgian and entirely… good.belgium-food

The “secret” is that Belgian fries, as opposed to those made in other places around the world, are double-dipped in baths of hot oil, making them more consistent, but also fatter. The sauces also contribute to the “legend”: Andalouse, Cocktail, Bicky – all are a typical part of the Belgian fries meal. Good fried potatoes can be found all over Belgium, but one particularly famous place is in Brussels’ Place Jourdan – Maison Antoine. If you want to learn more about the origin and history of Belgian fries, visit Bruges’ Frites Museum; it’s an interesting experience and you also get a free sample with your entrance ticket.

courtesy of restaurant-guide.cz

courtesy of restaurant-guide.cz

Secondly, the country is full of seafood restaurants (obviously! it’s close to the North Sea). The ingredient that is common for most dishes are the oysters. Served with butter, in a soup or with tomato sauce, they are omnipresent in Belgian cuisine. In addition, snails have an important place as regards street food, with a large number of shops that sell freshly stewed snails directly from the pot.

Other dishes are “imported” from other cultures. The quiche is largely popular there, as it is in France. The most explicit description for this dish would be: potato and meat pie. Some have it with cream on the top; some do not. Pork spare ribs have become a big thing in Belgium in recent years, with restaurant chains such as Amadeus offering them à volonte for a fixed number of euros.

courtesy of thec10.com

courtesy of thec10.com

For desert, there is the waffle (or the gauffre, as it is locally called). This is basically liquid dough placed on a special grill (that also gives it that specific shape), after which the fried result is dipped in sugar, Nutella, whipped cream or other sweet things that you can think of. Waffles come in two types, Brussels’s and Liege’s waffle. The taste is the same; the only thing that differs is the shape – the form is squared and the latter is round.

Oddly enough, restaurant recommendations are not necessary for Belgium. As the biggest part of local cuisine is street food, “traditional” restaurants can be found around the corner. Areas with chique restaurants are the Saint Gerry Square, in Brussels, the center of Gent and the boardwalk lining the coast, in Oostende. It’s not just local food that you’ll find there, but also international cuisine. Enough talk! More eating! Bon appetit!

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