Celebrating our Diversity-EP01.

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Travel promotes peace. This is one of the mottos of my blog, and it is genuinely one of the core values/reasons that motivates me to travel more, explore more and meet new people. Each traveler has his/her own motives and inspirations to travel. Some travelers are foodies, some are more into fashion and lifestyle, and some are into art and architecture …etc. My motive and inspiration which I do feel on every trip and at every place I go to are to celebrate our diversity, build more bridges and promote peace.

I am starting a new blog series to document how I experience that during my travels. I love meeting people from different ethnic groups, cultural backgrounds, and beliefs.I believe it does help us understand each other and our world deeper and wiser. Even though sometimes there are culture and language barriers but still every day through travel we can build more bridges and grow stronger together. We can collectively evolve into a more peaceful, prosper and a non-violent world.

So, stay tuned and join my journey of celebrating our diversity. Any comments or ideas are most welcomed. Any relevant stories or thoughts are welcomed as well with a chance to be published. Check out the Instagram account “Sufitraveler” and until we meet again stay positive.

Venice…visit it before it drowns?!

One thing you will not hear or read that much about Venice is that the infrastructure of many buildings is deteriorating. That is not a big surprise. They were built a long time back with old construction techniques and infrastructure plus the surrounding environment will play a role. The dilemma here is whether to demolish some of the old buildings and with it the identity of the iconic place or to keep it as it is with its beautiful historical image. That does not apply to Saint Mark`s Basilica or the other cathedrals around Venice. It mainly applies to the residential buildings which are in many cases converted into hotels.

That is not the reason you should visit Venice before it drowns and do not get me wrong Venice is still one of the most beautiful and iconic places on earth. Sadly, I have read few reports -like this one from the Independent- that Venice will be underwater within a century if the acceleration in global warming is not quelled and flood defenses installed. That is one thing you learn from traveling, visiting this monumental, iconic city and realizing that it might fully drown due to global warming should give you a sense of responsibility towards the planet and our environment.

One more tip, do not visit Venice with too much luggage. It is not a luggage-friendly or a car-friendly city. There is a “luggage-carrying” service information in front of the train station but I would rather go for a lean traveling style with the minimum possible luggage. You might as well want to activate your Wi-Fi service ,try to get some good data roaming package in order to use google maps to reach your hotel and move there, otherwise you might easily get lost or suffer from asking the directions at every corner in a place where the English language is not the easiest way to communicate.

Maybe I was not so lucky with the Gelato shops I have tried as I was not so lucky with the hotel. However, I do prefer the Gelato in Rome, Milan, and Florence to the one in Venice at least the ones I had tried. The gondola in Venice is quite expensive it costs around eight euros. You can go for it if you want to have the experience of specifically a gondola in Venice. Otherwise, you can take one full day waterbus travel card for twenty Euros or a two-day travel card for thirty Euros where you can easily commute between stations and enjoy the ride all around Venice.

Venice has an amazing variety of restaurants, however, it seems I wasn’t very lucky with that one either. The food was really good but the waiters were a bit pushy for tips and for the expensive items on the menu. It is a very genuine Italian experience though. I had spent one night, one and half days which were quite enough to cover Venice including Piazza San Marco. However, I could not get inside Saint Mark`s Cathedral as the lines had been too long’s, you might consider two or three nights based on your plans.

So, yes please do visit Venice before it drowns and after you visit please do your best to save our planet from climate change and global warming to conserve such beautiful heritage of mankind. Here are some photos of Venice. More photos are available on the Instagram account “Sufitraveler”.And till we meet again stay positive.

Vienna…Livable and User-Friendly

You can`t help but fall in love with Vienna. It is livable, full of life, history, and architecture. Vienna is quite affordable, cost of transportation and accommodation (For residents) is lower than many other European cities. With a rich political history where socialism ruled over capitalism for a while, you can feel the effect of socialism in some parts of the city. Music is a big thing and it is a part of the culture and identity of the city. Sometimes it is referred to as the music capital of the world. Famous composers have lived and grew up in Vienna. So it is a perfect city for Opera fans.

St. Stephen`s Cathedral is an iconic building in the heart of Vienna, the surrounding area is full of life and you can easily reach too few other historical locations and building in Vienna. Hofburg Imperial Palace, Volksgarten, and few others are within walking distance from St. Stephen`s Cathedral. You can easily spend at least half a day in St. Stephen`s Cathedral and the surrounding area. There is a wide variety of restaurants and shops. You can do some nice shopping in that area too, probably not the cheapest in Vienna. However, it does have a wide variety of choices.

Sacher cake or “Sachertorte” is a famous Viennese specialty invented in Vienna by Austrian Franz Sacher in 1832. It is basically a Chocolate sponge cake with apricot jam and dark chocolate icing and it is served in many restaurants and cafeterias in Vienna. It is worth trying.

I had only spent two nights (two and a half days in Vienna). So, I cannot claim I am an expert in Vienna. I used SBB train from Zurich to Vienna, which with around nine hours long and tiring journey by train. Check out “The route from Zurich to Vienna”. The train almost crossed Austria diagonally, so we had got to see lots of different places in Austria on the way. It does have nice landscapes and topography, so it was not that boring. Plus they had a reasonably priced restaurant on the train. I did use the hop-off-hop-on service for one day and it was pretty convenient, narrating lots of interesting information about the history of Vienna with highlights on the famous composers and how important music is to the country. I would say one day was not enough to hop-off at even the major attractions and check it out. However, overall the hop-off-hop-on service was a quite satisfactory experience.

Public transportation in Vienna is quite lower in price than other European cities. I have noticed that the taxi fares are for the ones I had used were also lower than other European cities. In general, the city is very user-friendly livable and walkable to a great extent. You can enjoy a walking tour, especially in the city center. If you are doing a Euro trip, Vienna is definitely worth considering on the bucket list. I would say two nights were not enough. Probably four to five nights would be ok for a deeper experience. Here are some photos of the nice city. More photos are available on the Instagram account “Sufitraveler” and till we meet again stay positive.

Prague … Baby?!

We used Flixbus to commute from Vienna to Prague, which was pretty convenient and cost-effective. A trip of around three hours and fifteen minutes. Once you step a foot in Prague you feel a sense of chaos in the unconventional city, but do not let this put you down, there are lots of interesting stuff to do in Prague.

The Czech Republic is not using Euros. So what is the best way to exchange currency ? Well, first of all, it is not recommended to use the exchange companies in the train station or the airport they offer bad rates plus they charge a service fee of around 10%. There are some exchange companies which will offer you better rates but they will charge a service fee. The third option is the exchange companies which will offer no service charge and an acceptable rate. From my point of view that is the best option. For example, back in April hundred Euros using the first option would be converted to around 2,178 CZK using a rate of around 24.2 and a service fee. The second option, you would get around 2,236 CZK using a rate of around 24.8 and a service fee. The third option you would get 2,430 CZK using a rate of around 24.3 and no service fee.

The next hassle you might face in Prague is the taxi drivers.At least the ones I had met.They did charge extremely high especially the ones in front of the train station,it is recommended to negotiate with them and not to accept the first figure they mention. There was no meter or at least they hadn’t used it , so I had to agree on the fare before riding. Mostly, you can book a taxi back to the airport from your hotel with a predetermined fee.

One very positive thing I have to say about Prague is how friendly it`s youth are. Generally, they have very good command of English language compared to many other European cities and countries. They are very helpful when you ask for information, you feel a positive energy and they are genuinely keen on helping with accurate information. When you are in a restaurant or a café generally the same story applies they are mostly youth with good communication skills and positive vibes. Prague has a wide variety of restaurants with cuisines from all over the world. Even though that might be available in other European cities, the distinctive thing about Prague is that it is more cost-effective, it has a very wide range and a unique approach. Off course that does not apply to every restaurant or café you will visit but that is a general impression and it is recommended research the ratings and recommendations beforehand.

The architecture and history in Prague are quite unique, it gives the city a very distinctive identity and image. The famous red bricks on the roofs of many buildings along with the landscape are something you cannot skip noticing. And of course the old town square, Prague castle and St. Vitus Cathedral are among the must-see places. The atmosphere in the old town square is unconventional and very unique. I visited around Easter time and they had a very nice festival with booths serving affordable food and beverage.

The hop-on-hop-off service is cost effective and lower in price compared to the European cities. However, the quality is not as good. The buses are a bit old and small. The driving attitudes are a bit aggressive in Prague and the tour is relatively short. It does cover the major attraction though and you can use as an alternative to public transportation or taxis. It will be a bit more expensive but the decision would be based on your tour plan and the assigned budget for it.

In general, Prague is a nice city with a sense of chaos. Friendly and helpful youth, nice restaurants and cafes. Beautiful architecture and history. It is defiantly worth visiting and spending few days there. Here are some photos from Prague. More photos are available on the Instagram account “Sufitraveler” and till we meet again stay positive.

 

Lake Como…definitely on the bucket list

While I was planning my Italy-Switzerland trip I was going for the conventional Rome-Florence-Venice-Milano-Zurich. A couple of my friends highly recommended Como, so I decided to insert a couple of nights in Como. Long story short Como super exceeded my expectations. The stunning city on the borders of Switzerland Northern Italy simply got what it takes for an unforgettable experience. Stunning views of mountains, a beautiful lake going through the mountains, breathtaking nature, nice architecture, original Italian food….etc. Initially, I had an impression that it is just a small village in the mountains. Lake Como actually has around thirty-one cities and villages on the lake including Como, Cernobbio, Nesso, Brienno, Argegno, Tremezzo, Griante, Bellagio, Griante, Lezzeno, Lenno, Lecco,  Bellano, Mennagio, Brunate, Domaso, Gravendo.

While some stay in Milano and do Lake Como as a day trip, I highly recommend spending at least a couple of nights in Lake Como. The best option to commute between the cities and villages on Lake Como is the lake ferries from the lake station “Navigazione Laghi”.A day pass is around twenty Euros and it is quite convenient. Some of the ferries do have a restaurant on board with reasonable pricing, for example, a good portion pasta plate would range from 8-10 Euros. You can hop-off at any of the villages and cities you want to explore, check them out and hop-on ferry again.

Como center does have all the facilities, the train station, bus station and ferry stations. A cathedral in the center along with a market, a typical European setup. However, nature and the mountains give it a unique identity. There are lots of hotels and restaurants in the center for those who prefer to stay in a central location with easy and walkable access to all the facilitates. On the other hand, you can choose to book your hotel in the heart of the beautiful nature at one of the cities and villages Tremezzo or Lezzeno for example. However, you will need to familiarize yourself with the timings of the ferries because sometimes the waiting time for the ferries can reach to more than one hour, otherwise, you can use the bus to commute between cities and villages.

Bellagio is one of the most popular destinations on Lake Como. It takes around an hour to reach from Como`s center to Bellagio using the ferry and probably the same timing by bus. However, it is highly recommended to use the ferry for this trip to enjoy the stunning nature. Bellagio is a beautiful city with stunning nature and nice architecture. It has lots of shops, restaurants, and cafeterias. You can use the hop-on-hop-off service which is in a form of a small train called Trombetta express which is a 3-5 minutes walking distance from the lake station. It costs only 5 euros and it takes around 25-30 minutes around Bellagio. I do recommend it as it is not that costly and it does take you around the full city narrating some information about the history and architecture of the beautiful city.

Overall, I did feel that even two nights were not enough to cover and enjoy the beautiful Lake Como. I would say at least three nights should be spent there. A small online research could be done before visiting Lake Como to decide the convenient period to stay there. However, it should definitely be on the bucket list and you shouldn’t miss it when visiting Ital especially the Northern part. You can get a direct train from Como to Zurich as well passing through one of the most beautiful routes in Europe. I have written a blog post earlier about it “A tale of a super scenic route”

Here are some photos of the stunning Lake Come. More photos will be posted on the Instagram account “Sufitraveler. And till we meet again stay positive.

A tale of a super scenic route

Arguably this route is the most scenic in the world. I have read and heard few reviews and recommendations that the route from Milan/Como to Zurich is the most scenic route in the world. I did use many routes across various countries in Europe and between countries, to some extent I do agree with this point of view. I used the train between Como-Italy and Zurich-Switzerland which was approximately three hours and fifteen minutes passing through few marvelous places as Lugano, Moleno, Erstfeld, Altdorf, Sisikon, Morschach, Seween SZ, Lauerzer see, Zug and few others. There is also an option of using Flixbus which would probably be much lower in price but unfortunately, I could not reach to it by the time I was taking the trip.

Como-Italy is of course on the borders of Switzerland so the train is basically crossing Switzerland vertically all the way to Zurich passing through stunning scenic views of the Swiss Alps. It is a dream route with breathtaking landscapes and topography. It won`t stop to amaze you from the moment you leave Como till you reach Zurich. While the left side of the train does have a little bit more scenic views, both sides are stunning and eye-flirting. I do highly recommend if you are traveling between Italy and Switzerland to use this route by train or bus. It is an amazing lifetime experience. Here is some footage from that route and you can find more photos on the Instagram account “Sufitraveler”.And till we meet again stay positive.

The walkable Zurich

So I had one full day to use in Zurich which seemed to be more than enough to cover it. Zurich is a typical European city with a relatively small population. The good thing about Zurich is that it is a very walkable city and you can probably do a walking tour covering all the major attraction in less than a day. The public transportation in Zurich is super convenient especially the tram and while it is a bit more expensive than other European cities but it is still acceptable.

Starting from the train station which is considered a major shopping center in Zurich, you can find a wide variety of shops and restaurants from various international cuisines. A convenient tourist information center is located in the train station from where you can book any of the days trips to Titlis, Lucerne, Interlaken, Grindelwald ….etc. They also offer day tours in Zurich itself, however Zurich tours you can do it yourself, it is not necessary to have a tour operator or a tour guide. Old town Zurich is walkable as well from the train station. It is worth it to spend some time in old town Zurich, visit the cathedral and the major attraction, do some shopping and try the restaurants and coffee shops over there. Probably, try the Swiss cheese and chocolate fondue. There is a hop-on-hop-off service. However, I do see that by doing the walking tour yourself you will be able to cover most of the major attractions if not all of them with a lower cost and you can always use the tram if required.

One of the travelers’ question is whether it is better to stay in Zurich and do the day trips from there or to stay in the town or city of the day tour. Well, it depends on few factors including the time of the year and subsequently the rates of the hotels in Zurich and other cities, then the type of activities you are planning to do in the day trip. It will require some research before the trip. I visited Zurich in the first week of April and I had not planned the exact day trips previously. The rates of the hotels were not too bad in Zurich so I did stay there for three nights and I did the day trips from there which were pretty convenient. However, I do recommend to plan the day trips beforehand and select the kind of activities required and based on that take the decision. I also recommend staying in the towns or cities where you plan to have intensive activities to best utilize the time.

Here are some photos from Zurich`s walk tour. There are more photos on the Instagram account “Sufitraveler”.And till we meet again, stay positive.