Travels to western Europe, a diary and note, what begin as an idea turned out to be an adventure… nothing but a mere two weeks of planning and what seems to be a simple journey turned to be the an amazing experience. Part one, Istanbul, Rome, Florence, Venice and the Bernina express.
Istanbul, First stop.
The flight to Dubai took 7hrs. 13 hrs transit and another 4hrs from Dubai to Istanbul, Emirates flights are so cool, even at economy fare the service was excellent. They even gave me meal voucher for the transit in Dubai, not first class lounge but still good.
After more than 24 hours of travel time, the first sight of your destination was such a relief… can’t wait to drop that bag.
Found the hostel at Sultanahmet and the location was excellent. Walking distances to a lot of attraction that I wanted to go.
First day was just ‘having a taste of the air’ and it was not as chilly as expected as I could walk about in T’s but night-time I had to put on my down jacket.
Some go for shopping some for sights, the visit to museums is very interesting… If you are the museum type, a museum pass for TL85 is a good choice, two main very awesome museum Hagia Sofea and Topkapi palace already cost about TL80. At first the pass was not in my plans but the site and view was just so tempting. Photos, imagination, and day dreaming… I kept imagining how grand Istanbul history.
Beyoglu, is more new town, modern type of area, I love to walk so I walked, from my hostel, to Taksim square, found hard rock cafe and got a shirt there (by request) then explored the area, had a kebab for lunch and yogurt drink (I don’t know why the kebabs are always dry, maybe its the way they do it, But the meat is nice and palatable), in Taksim, got held by the police for questioning, interesting experience, who checked my backpack and passport, maybe I looked like a thug or what I don’t know, should have asked but so what, not doing anything illegal.
Walking alone at the streets, be careful, someone would approach, be super friendly, introduce themselves as tourist out of towns and invite you to a bar… Cut it short, if you’re lucky, you’ll end up paying TL2000 for the night, they would ask for 4k. That what I heard from my mates.
Shoppers, souvenirs hunters on the other hand might well be bedazzled here as there are too many shops everywhere. Maybe its just me but the shoppers really could be pushy.
Transportation is quite easy, metro lines and tram but not very dispersed, some of the attraction are off the train station so get to learn to use a bus or pay for taxi prices. Taxis are race cars, don’t worry of finding a slow one, you can’t.
The sights in the museums are impressive enough for the visit. Blue mosque, Hagia Sofya, Basilica Cistern within walking range to each other.
During My visit in may, saw a lot of tourist, caucasian, asian, arabic in hijabs veils etc, even chinese. The colors, variety and chaos is a beauty in its own.
12/5, Check out from Istiklal hostel, 08:30 barely made it to the flight to Rome, not anybody fault but my own. I assumed that I’d make it in time. Tram station and then the metro to the airport.. And boy did I almost made an ass out of me and me alone… Boarding time stated on my online check in was 09:55, I exited the airport metro at 09:40, hurried (running) to the departure hall, asked for assistance from the Agean airlines staff there and he helpfully gave me the gate without me having to read the monitor, drop my luggage, and ran some more to my boarding gate which was about maybe at the end of the terminal. Gate 201, I was so lucky that security counters was not busy…
One point to remember is that belts with steel buckle is such a pain in the ass when at airports.. My running shoes did help a bit as well… didn’t have to take it off. Some walking boots trigger metal sensors, own experience as I had to take my shoes and belt off and that would have taken some extra few minutes of running time.
Flight to Athens, I was not sure to get my bags or they’ll fly to Rome.. After a few calls and enquiries, the helpdesk assistant said it has gone to Rome… Ok.
“We die we live, its part of life.. Doesn’t matter if it’s Asia or Europe, I have nothing or not much, happy being me, doing what I like, what I have to do, then I feel alive”
Got this epiphany just before landing Rome, hahaha, maybe its the air, food or sun, I do not know.
Landed rome airport got my luggage and €5 bus to Roma termini. Walked to my hostel, about 1.5 km, and checked in. The guys were so friendly and nice, The other backpackers are so friendly and nice and had a great time together. Went out at the night to take some pictures, before that I asked where to go at this short time to get some nice view… everyone was struggling to pronounce the place and suddenly the Italian guy next bed said beautifully with the suave of a true Italian… Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore… and So I had my first Italian language lesson. 🙂
13/5 Next day was busy, to the Colosseum, €12 tickets and que for about 20 minutes, not bad because I was early, 10:00am.? And was amazed by the sights there. I thought the amazement couldn’t be more but when I got to the Palatine Hills, I was even more amazed! The site is just grand. I let my imagination wonder and walked through the massive site. Seriously, visiting yourself, only then you’d get the sense of how mighty and magnificent this city once was. I wished I could go back in time and watch Rome in all the buildings still standing.
Walked some more, Finally got my “Wolves of The Calla” book €14.50 at LaFeltrineli (been looking for that for the past 3 month, saw the bookstore yesterday but it was closed; the guy helping me with the title did not have any idea how elated I was that time, wish I could have told him but just too teary-eyed having found the book) then to Trevi Fountains, the ever popular Spanish steps was closed, but still the scene around it, very happening and a must visit, and got a pair of The North Face shoes, €145, a slice of pizza and espresso for €3 and just walked home enjoying the streets scene.
14/5 Wanted to visit Vatican museum but line was too looooong…! Like 1/2 hour in the rain and it only crawled 1/2 the distance and still another 1/2 length to go and wait another 1/2 hour or maybe more? it was 10:30 and decided it ain’t worth it so skipped Vatican museum and just walk to the square instead… Walked about Rome city and enjoyed the scenes and streets.
15/5 checked out rome to the trains, got my ticket to Florence, and arrived at noon, left my bags at the train deposit for €6 and walk to the Ponte Vecchio (bridge), and soon later it started to rain. Lucky the rain was only like an hour…
Back to the train station, and luck was not on my side. There was no trains to Venice…! How was that even possible! Seem that I had to spend the night in Florence. At first thinking it was some bad luck, but realised later it wasn’t all that bad… I was lucky there was wifi at the station and searched for the cheapest hostel I could and close to the station. Turns out to be ok, better than Rome in a way. One tip for readers, booking.com and hostelworld.com are the two most reliable and trustworthy site that I used for Europe travel. Even the hostel operator prefer you to go through these site rather than walk-in to the front door.
I got to explore Florence in the evening, and found Florence is unique in a way of it own from Rome. The streets are more classical and seems to feel more ‘authentic’ in a special way.
16/5Train to Venice, Frecciaganto, frecciarossa (still not sure what the difference is hahaha), another €10 booking fee on the card, with eurail. Arrived at 10:00 something and got to the hostel from google map on foot, found it and checked in another €31.50 for one night. Trains tickets are easy to get at the stations, the self service machine are easy, but get your destination right. A good site for advise is this site seat61.com
Walked around the city until 4:00pm, such a cool place, made all the trouble here worth it. I booked only for one night as more would be just too much and overdoing it.
Didn’t go into the paid museum due to budget and my feel for museum just faded away at that time, maybe too much museum from Istanbul. At this point, can’t wait to go go outdoors in Switzerland. The streets of Venice is an amazing live museum as it is.
Walking the streets of Venice in night, is different on its own, the streets gets quiet, romantic and serene. Too bad I didnt have the chance to run around Venice, it would have been a keeper for the books. 🙂
17/5 Was ready early and had a nice cappucino and croissant at magnum Venice (a shop that deserve to get my review in tripadvisor site) to Milan on the train frecciaganto again… Arrived Milan and took the train to Tirano and begin my amazing Bernina express. Since already have a Eurail pass I just paid for the reservation fee. I was the only passenger in that coach which made the experience even more personal.
The train ended in Filisur, so quiet and strange, but beautiful never the less, and exchanged to Chur then Zurich. Overnight at the Zurich hb station and had to wait outside in the cold.
Being said as one of the most scenic train journey in the world, the experience is just magical. I didn’t even realised the two hour journey was over.
Next part of this journey begins at Zermatt, home to the Matterhorn, travels to west Europe part 2.
link to photo album