Yo Tokyo!

Tokyo is a megalopolis. It is one of the most exciting cities, regardless of when you visit. It is a very challenging place to visit: the language barrier, the cultural differences, and the ever present possibility off getting lost; yet all this makes it very interesting.  Although most people think it’s a very expensive place to visit, I found that it was not more expensive than going out in London, and even sometimes a bit cheaper. Public transport is not very expensive, but the network is very complicated and to work out the correct fare can be challenging. However, there is a top up card you can use on the subway which makes it easier.  Intercity travel is very expensive, so if you can get a JR Pass ( Japanese Rail Pass) it could be quite useful and save you money. Additionally, with the JR Pass you can use this on certain lines within Tokyo city – you can travel from the airport to the city centre, and use the very useful Yamonote line to travel around the city.

 

After sunset, there are no lack of activities to enjoy in Tokyo. As dusk falls, the sprawling metropolis of Tokyo transforms into a city of bright lights. Many observation decks in towers and tall buildings are open until around 22:00, providing great vantage points for lovely night views.

 

Outside Shibuya station you will find this famous crossing intersection. This area gets really crowded with shoppers, students, young couples and commuters. When the lights turn red at this busy junction, they all turn red at the same in every direction

 

The pictures above are from the Meiji Shrine. This shrine is dedicated to the memory of the Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken. The shrine can be entered through one the decorated wooden gates. When I was in Tokyo it rained all the time, but the rain didn’t stop me exploring the city.

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This is a picture of me trying to get some blessings.

The Imperial Palace Grounds are located in the centre of the city. It sits in a busy urban area.  This magnificent area contains the  residence of the Emperor, along with stone walls, watchtowers, gates, and fairytale bridges.

 

 

Senso-ji temple was rebuilt several time. It is the oldest temple in Tokyo, and is dedicated to Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy. It attracts throngs of visitors. This religious sanctuary lies at the heart of a busy commercial district.

 

Ueno Park is very impressive, with it’s  temples, shrines, cherry trees, a magnificent lotus pond, and statues. It was raining quite a lot when I was at the park. One of the things that most impressed me, was the Shinobazu pond filled with lotuses.

 

Koishikawa Korakuen Garden it one of the oldest gardens in Tokyo. If you stroll around the park you will find a Chinese style bridge, the Full Moon Bridge, called Engetsukyo Bridge in Japanese, one of the oldest stone bridges in Tokyo. It is called the Full Moon Bridge because it makes a full circle with its own reflection in the water.

 

The National Museum of Modern art is impressive place, holding lots of works by Japanese and Western artists.

 

 

After spending a lot of time in the rain, I decided to take a break at the Cat Cafe. It is a very interesting place to go if you love cats like me. They have more then fifty cats on two floors. You can go there and spend some time stroking the cats and giving them treats.

 

Overall Tokyo is a massive city with a lot to offer. It is one of those cities that never sleeps. The food is delicious, and the Japanese people are very polite and welcoming. I loved the time I spent there.

Summer at Ham House

 

Ham house is a historic house, situated beside the River Thames in Ham, south of Richmond in London. Ham House and garden is an unusually complete survival from the 17th century. It is reputed to be one of the most haunted houses in Britain.

 

 

I had the pleasure to enjoy a nice walk around the gardens. One of London’s best kept secrets, this atmospheric Stuart mansion nestles on the banks of leafy Richmond-upon-Thames. It has remained virtually unchanged for 400 years and is internationally recognized for its superb collection of textiles, furniture and art which have remained in the house for centuries.

 

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The house is absolutely beautiful. If you want to visit the garden it’s absolutely free, there is a small charge to visit the house.

 

 

 

The gardens of Ham House were restored by the National Trust to a 17th century layout to mark European Architectural Heritage Year (1975).

 

 

I had a great day there, enjoying the sunny day. The garden was carefully redesigned so the plants  faithfully recreate the atmosphere of the historic period.

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Around the River Thames you can find lots of things to do and see. The Richmond area is very pretty, nice for long walks, cycling, and boat trips. If you ever visit London you should visit this  well kept secret.

Two Season City

Bishkek is the capital city of Kyrgyzstan. I had the pleasure to visit this city in summer, and went back for Christmas! I really enjoyed Christmas there, and it felt really cold with all the snow, and the freezing weather.

 

 

The Opera house is a beautiful place to visit. It is very nice inside, and they have a very interesting programme throughout the year. I managed to buy tickets for very low prices, and I sat right at the front of the stalls. I saw the operas La Traviata, Madame Butterfly and also some ballets there.

 

 

The State History Museum is an incredible museum full of interesting exhibits. It shows all the changes that have happened since the country was part of the Soviet Union, until nowadays. If you walk around the museum, you will end up at the Panfilov Park. This is a historic green space with walking paths, a central fountain & amusement-park rides. There are a lot of monument around, including a statue of Lenin.

 

 

In this picture you can see some of the monuments around the park. I took a nice picture of the local cinema. It had interesting details on the walls.

When I was walking around the city, I saw this post in front of the local theatre and I thought what a great play it could be! It was all in Russian. I don’t speak Russian that well, unfortunately.

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Christmas time was amazing there. The local people are really into the festive season. There are lots of ornaments, and Christmas trees all over the place. You can see me here with my friends enjoying the freezing cold weather.

The main square looks very much in the style of the former Soviet Union to me. This is where they have their parliament buildings.

I did a side trip to a ski resort not very far away, about an hour away from Bishkek.

It was so nice. I come from a tropical country, and seeing so much snow was quite fascinating.

 

I’m not very into skiing, maybe because I never tried. I did some ice skating. Bishkek was one of my favourite destinations. It felt really challenging there, but I really had a great time.

 

Georgia on My Mind

The city of Tbilisi is situated in Georgia. It is cosmopolitan, international and sophisticated,  yet it is essentially and distinctly Georgian and retains a close focus on local tradition and culture. It is a city of contrasts, a meeting point between western and eastern civilizations. The architecture stretches from antiquity through eighteenth century balconied homes to austere soviet structures, right up to the ultra modern. The old is not overly polished.

I found this city to be very interesting – a mixture of colours wherever I went. A blast from the past, the old part of the city of Tbilisi looks intact from its ancient Byzantine-meets-Russian inception.

The architecture is gorgeous, a mix of European and the distinctively local.

The city was built on the hills, which is great for the views. Everywhere you look you can see the beauty of the city.

In the pictures above you can the Metekhi Cathedral which is located on a small hill inside Mtkoary River and next to the monument of King Vakhtang in the old city of Tbilisi. There are also very carefully painted houses.

On the top of the hill you can find the statue of the Mother Georgian, which symbolizes the Georgian national character.  In  her left hand she holds a bowl of wine to greet those who come as friends, and in her right hand is a sword for those who come as enemies. I’m not quite sure if I managed to capture the monument very well: I only had my mobile phone with me.

Here you can see some random pictures of me having fun in Tbilisi. I am also standing in front of The Freedom Monument, which is a memorial located in central Tbilisi, Georgia, honouring soldiers killed during the Tbilisi War of Independence. It is considered an important symbol of freedom.

I loved visiting this amazing city, forget about Paris, Milan. Tbilisi is the place to visit!

Free Time in Freetown

 

Freetown is the capital of Sierra Leone, situated in West Africa. This name was given to the city when the British helped four hundred freed slaves from the United States, Nova Scotia, and Great Britain return to Sierra Leone to settle in what they called the ‘Province of Freedom’.

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In Freetown, you can see the sea from almost any point in the city and you are never far away from the beach!

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Local Football team training at the beach.

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The international airport of Freetown in Situated on the Island of Lungi. Here is where people come to catch the ferry boat to the main city.

 

 

The sunset here is incredible. I came here to watch the sunset from the Mahara Beach Hotel.

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When the sun went I could see this beautiful lights by the ferry port.

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That’s me sitting down and enjoying a drink after enjoying the sunset.

 

 

Here are some of the crafts made by the local people at the hotel.

 

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It was great to come here in the afternoon and watch the world go by, and local people having fun.

Tate Times

 

The Tate Modern Gallery is one of the most famous galleries in London. It has lots of inspirational, modern and contemporary art there. Since it opened in May 2000, more than 40 million people have visited Tate Modern. It is one of the UK’s top three tourist attractions.

The site was built in a former power station on the London south bank. It was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. It consisted of a stunning turbine hall, 35 meters high and 152 meters long, with the boiler house alongside it and a single central chimney. However, apart from a remaining operational London Electricity sub-station the site had been redundant since 1981.

I came to the Tate to see a great exhibition called Soul of a Nation. The exhibition is to celebrate the work of black artists working in America in the two decades after 1963. It shows lot of pictures and sculptures designed by black artists at the time that the Civil Rights Movement was at its height.

When walking around the Tate I could see the beautiful architecture in the new extension. The area has been regenerated.

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The site is really impressive. The building is really grand and iconic.  This area is really nice for long walks by the River Thames, and of course to visit the gallery and numerous sites that surround it.

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Here you can see one of the towers of when the building was a power station.

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Inside the gallery you can see beautiful architecture.

In these pictures you can see the newest part of the gallery in the basement area called The Tanks.  It has lots of temporary art exhibitions and also its permanent collection which is amazing, if you like art.

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I was not allowed to take pictures inside the exhibition. Here are some pictures of the book that were being sold, and a picture of the poster showing all the amazing artists.

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On the way to the Gallery from the train station called London Blackfriars, I had a beautiful view of the South Bank. You can see in the distance, on the other side of the river, St. Paul’s Cathedral.

You can also see the Millennium Bridge that leads to the cathedral .

At the very top of the Gallery, on the 10th floor, there is a viewing platform. Here you have amazing panoramic views of London. The views are stunning from up there. I was lucky to have such beautiful weather, not the usual rainy London days.

Walking down the river passing the Tate Gallery toward the Borough Market I saw lots of interesting buildings alongside the river.

 

If you ever have the opportunity to visit London, you must visit the Tate Modern. Have a good long walk by the South Bank and enjoy the nice views. You can walk all the way from famous Big Ben to the iconic Tower Bridge – that would be a good day out in London.

Medieval City

Hanover is a place where the city lover can enjoy architecture alongside exploring its interesting past. In the north of Germany, Hanover is rich in culture, Royal Gardens and memorable art exhibitions, star-studded concerts and fascinating museums.

I was walking to the tram station. I had to catch the tram to go to the city centre to start my walking tour of the city.

This is the train station where I got off.

Here I am at a shopping Centre called Luise. It’s a stylish taste of some of Hanover’s fashionable shops. It has a beautiful glass roof. I was sitting down for a little while with an old friend!

Here on the right we can see the Opera house – one of the buildings in a classical style. It’s a famous signature building of the famous architect Georg Ludwig Laves. On the left, an eye catching building in a late French gothic style

Here we can see the ruins of a church. It was one of the largest places of worship in medieval Hanover. The Aegidienkirche.

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Hanover new town hall. One of Hanover’s best known landmarks. Here you can see the Archer  whose arrow is pointed right at the Lord Mayor’s office.

Me standing at the front of the Town Hall. You can see a beautiful garden at the back of the Town hall.

Here you can the Laine Palace which is the home of the state parliament. Alongside the place you can explore some of the other beautiful corners of the city.

I had to take a rest from all the excitement of this town. I headed to the old town centre. The town is proud of its reputation for good food, and famous for its beer brewing. I had to have an ice cream.

In the Balhoff area you can enjoy Gothic Hanover. The Market church is the heart of the old town, a busy area where merchants and craftsmen used to live in 14th century.

Hanover is great place to visit. There is a very modern side of the city which I didn’t explore. I chose to enjoy the old town.

When Europe Meets Asia

Baku is one of the most beautiful world cities located just at the point where Europe meets Asia. It is the capital of Azerbaijan, just by the Western Caspian Sea.

Baku is the largest cultural center of Azerbaijan. It is the place where the national theatre was the first in the Muslim East to lift its curtain; the first opera was performed; the first Azerbaijan newspaper was published; and the first Azerbaijan library was opened. Today Baku is known to have 30 museums, 7 theatres, 11 institutions of higher education, a philharmonic orchestra, opera theatre, film studio, cinema theaters and libraries housed in the city’s most beautiful buildings. Their interior decoration is every bit as good as their interior cultural content.

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I really enjoyed my day in this city, which is so diverse. I was intrigued by the mixture of architecture – the mix of new and old.

Baku was the host of the Eurovision song contest in 2012.

 

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A nice fun day in a square in the middle of the city of Baku.

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People around enjoying the nice sunny weather.

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The Beautiful Caspian sea. I was sitting here and enjoying the view. I should have brought my sunglasses. It was really bright.

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Amazing ruins in the city centre.

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Here, I tried to show the old city, with the striking skyscrapers behind. I thought it was a good mix. I didn’t have a good zoom on my camera for this view.

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Many of the architectural monuments of Baku were built on the ruins of very old buildings belonging to the pagan period in the history of Azerbaijan. Thus, according to archaeologists, the Maiden Tower is built on the site of a pagan temple. The basement of Sabail castle also contains some fragments of the older buildings. Juma mosque in the Icheri-sheher can also be listed among such monuments.

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A carpet shop I passed when walking around. Beautiful hand made carpets.

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Choices of many souvenirs available around the city centre.

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Around Juma Mosque there are lots of shop selling all the kinds of art crafts you can imagine.

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The tower of Absheron. It is built alongside the city wall.

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Walking along side the City walls.

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A beautiful gate and me standing by it.

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Beautiful architecture alongside the city.

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Icheri Sheher is the oldest living quarter in Baku. It was declared a historical and cultural reserve in 1977, and was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2000.

Sometimes, Icheri Sheher is referred to as a fortress, because its area of 221 km2 is fully surrounded with a well-preserved vallum. The territory of Icheri Sheher was inhabited with people as early as in the Bronze Age and by the VIII-XI centuries it had been completely populated.

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I enjoyed my time in Baku. I thought it was a great city with amazing architecture!

Discovering the Persian Way

I had the opportunity to visit the interesting city of Tehran. I must confess that I wasn’t quite sure which places to visit, but I went out and explored this marvelous city anyway.

Tehran is the capital of Iran. It is the most liberal and secular city in Iran. The traffic is crazy, and it’s very busy.

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I was trying to search for which places I could visit in one day, and was advised to go and visit the 7 Palaces, which is a big park with lots of different museums.

Sad Abad has 18 palaces, of which seven have changed to museums. I didn’t have time to visit all the museums.

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The Sadabad Palace is a palace built by the Pahlavi dynasty of Iran in the Shemiran area of Tehran. The complex was first inhabited by Qajar monarchs and royal family in the 19th century. After an expansion of the compounds, Reza Shah lived there in the 1920s. And his son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi moved there in the 1970s.

The Sadabad Palace is very interesting, There are some works of art like figurines and chinaware which are kept in showcases. Furniture, chandeliers and paintings are all European-made. There are four big mural paintings, the subjects of which are Iranian myths.

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It was quite peaceful when I was there, and it was in autumn time. I really liked the light in autumn which make everything look slightly brown.

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I saw this beautiful carriage when I was walking around. I was feeling quite tired when I was there, as the time change was quite confusing.

It’s quite a large area where all the palaces are situated. I found it quite easy to walk around. It was a beautiful day.

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People are really friendly there, and try really hard to help you. I was leaving the palaces,  and was trying to go to the Grand Bazaar. I had to take taxis everywhere, and hardly anybody could speak English. Despite the language barrier, I did find my way there. Luckily I had everything written down on a piece of paper.

Arriving at the bazaar.

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The Bazaar is quite a fascinating place to visit,  if a somewhat daunting place to explore. The bazaar is much more than just a place to stock up on a few essential shopping items. It felt like a maze to me.

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Some beautiful tiles art work I saw around the bazar.

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I saw this beautiful blue mosque that was being restored.

My impression of Tehran was that it is a huge city with a lot to offer. People are really warm and welcoming there. It was a shame a didn’t have much more than a day to explore, but I was quite pleased with what I saw.

Time Out in Tel Aviv

If you are looking for a summer holiday in the Middle East, now you have found it. Tel Aviv has a beautiful coast line. For your sand-filled pleasure, spend the day like a local sweating through an intense matkot session, play some volleyball on the Gordon Beach strip, or just lay down and soak up the sun.

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The coast line is beautiful. You can go for long walks and enjoy the sea breeze. There are lots of different sections of the beach that you can enjoy.

The Hilton beach is popular with both locals – lots of celebs (!), and with tourists from the nearby hotels.  It’s a great beach for swimming, surfing and sunbathing. The Hilton beach is subdivided into 3 completely different sections which attract totally different crowds:

Hilton Beach, North – the Dogs beach (Hof Haklavim in Hebrew)
Hilton Beach, Middle – the Gay beach
Hilton Beach, South – Surfer’s Beach

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I spent a lovely day by the beach, and enjoyed a long walk alongside ending up in Jaffa.

Jaffa or Yafo, is the southern and oldest part of Tel Aviv-Yafo, an ancient port city in Israel. Jaffa is famous for its association with the biblical stories of Jonah, Solomon and Saint Peter.

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I am glad I walked all the way there, and enjoyed beautiful views of the city.

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Jaffa town center. Here you can eat one of the best typical foods of Tel Aviv.

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There is a nice park around Jaffa where you have lots of interesting things to see, and nice views of the city.

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Magnificent view of Tel Aviv from Jaffa.

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I was luck to be there when the sun was going day. What a gorgeous day!

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Tel Aviv is great place to visit. It’s  city with a bronzed coast line, where residents speak every language under the sun, and where life is lived outdoors and to the fullest.