Mission District murals – San Francisco 

This blog is from a year old trip in California, but  there is something about these murals and street art in the Mission district that I felt I have to write about. Don’t worry I will not write a lot, because here you have to look and listen to what these paintings are telling you. Most of them are from the 70s, but with the latest political realities around the world it repeats the same old truths.

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The Women’s Building

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Inspired by Diego Riviera and other Mexican muralists

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430 meters below Sea Level – Visiting the Dead Sea

Everybody knows that the mountain Everest is the highest point on the face of the Earth, and it is definitely on my to do list. But before I save $30K for the group climbing excursion, I decided first to pay a visit to the lowest point on Earth – the Dead Sea.

It is located right in middle of the Middle East and is officially is shared by Palestine, Israel and Jordan. However after taking the Highway 90 from Tel Aviv down to this area and passing by what (according to the map) should be the Palestinian part of this lake, it seemed like it is completely under Israel’s  control. Well, but we’ve already known that Israel is not particularly good in sticking with the border lines

So, we rented a car in Tel Aviv and after less than 2 hours we were crossing by the dessert mountains and palm trees forests. It was midday of Saturday, so the road was empty with only few cars passing by.

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One thing that impressed me about this wonder is the perfect, mirror-like reflection of the Dead Sea. Here is the closer look to it:

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If you look deep enough, you can see the Jordan mountains thought the clouds

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No, he is not lying on the bottom of the sea here. He is floating!

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A piece of salt from the beach

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We spent a night in Ein Bokek, not a town, rather a hotel strip. Do I recommend it? No, not really, hotels here are very expensive and quite old. Also, almost no eating out/going out options available. But again it was the beginning of January.

In the morning, we gave a lift to a couple of hitchhikers, who spent a night on the beach and woke with mosquito bites on their faces (not sure if they slept at all). So, don’t do it either!

Around the Dead Sea

So, the Dead Sea can be fun for some time, but as it is not recommended spending more than 15 minutes in its salty waters, you might get bored quite quickly. But there are a few other things you can do around here.

Masada

A very special site for many Israelis and Jews. Masada is remainings of an ancient town, situated  on the top of the rock. A heroic legend of Siege of Masada attacks locals to visit this place,  for others it is a chance to look over the Dead Sea and the Judean desert from 400 meters up:

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You can hike up or take a cable car

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Ein Gedi hikes:

Ein Gedi is described as an oasis in the dessert and offers a number of hiking routes situated across the shore of the Dead Sea. We stopped at Wadi David and did an hour long hike to the David’s waterfall and back.

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One of the smaller waterfalls on this hike
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David’s falls

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We made friends with these little guys…
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and stayed way from him

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Ein Gedi kibbutz & Botanical garden

The local kibbutz (commune) is situated on the hill overlooking the Dead Sea and mountains. The community here runs a hotel and a famous Botanical garden (in the middle of the dessert!) with plans from all over the world.

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Looks like a house on a tropical island…

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and then and here it was a time leave back to Tel Aviv.

At the end of this blog I would like to share a few tips, should you be interested in visiting Palestine. This trip was too short for us to do so, but here is what I learned from my research:

Jericho (the city of Palms) – if you are in the Dead Sea area do not miss out on this town in West Bank. Believed to be one of the oldest villages in the world offers plenty of archaeological and Biblical attractions.

The Dead Sea area is quite badly reachable by the public transport, so to travel around here you will need to rent a car (or hitchhike). But with a car rented in Israel you will not be able to visit West Bank. Here is one of the alternatives for you to rent in Jerusalem.

Note to myself: next time I am around the Dead Sea I want to stay here.

Life in Medina part I – Fez, Morocco

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When days start to get shorter and shorter here in Brussels, the best way to keep your vitamin D high is to find a sunny weekend escape destination. To be honest, I have never heard about Fez before finding a cheap Ryanair ticket. But  as soon as I saw Google describing Fez as Morocco’s cultural capital, I did not need to know more.

It was the last weekend of October, 3 hours flight, 30 minutes drive from the airport and we found ourselves in a 1000 years old Fes el Bali, a world heritage site. We had 2 days in front of us to learn everything we need to know about Fez and what’s life like in this Medina.

Medina is a Market

First of all, Medina is a market, and here you will be offered to buy beautiful artisan handicrafts (leather, pottery and of course carpets are Fez’s specialties), you will also be intensively approached by the locals offering you a private guide, a very special shop, the best restaurant, and many other ‘hidden secrets’. The thing a bout the market is that you need to know how to bargain, and to say no, and you will need to say no here many times…

A little advice, if you are on the budget or you  are really not interesting in buying anything, the easiest way to do it is by not entering any shop. Shop keepers here are very skilled sellers and they know  how to do it. It will only take them to see a doubt in your eyes and you will end up leaving a shop with a carpet/lamp or a tea set…

All sorts of leather goods are Fez’s specialty. Head to the tannerie Chouara,  the biggest open air leather coloring fabric. It is a big tourist attraction (and a trap). Be ready for a mix of smells and to say no to  very persistent sellers and ‘guides’.

Donkeys of Medina

The 9000 tiny streets of medina are closed to cars therefore donkeys do the transportation job here. They carry anything and everything, from Coca Cola cans to gas containers.

Medina is beautiful

The walls of Fez guards hidden beauties, waiting to be discovered by you. You will need to work hard to find it. The old city is full of Riads – private houses with gardens, also called paradises by locals, and thick  grey walls are separating them from street passers.

Medina’s underground world

Every neighborhood inside the Medina share two main facilities, essential for people living inside the walls. The oven – to have fresh bread and tajines, cooked in the right way. and Hammam a necessary ritual and a treat for your body. What many passes by without noticing are the people, who make it possible, in their little caves:

Medina’s forbidden mosques

Mosques in Morocco are only accessible to the Muslims. Therefore, we were left outside, on our toe tips, trying to get a glimpse at their beauty and the inner life from the doorstep.

Medina is full of life

Before the sunset go down go to to one of the medina’s gates, then sit down, order the sweet the a la menthe, relax, and watch the people pass by. The streets will get busier, the real market for the locals will open, watch and learn the tricks of getting the price down. As the sun is going down watch the contours of the city, the walls, the palm tress. Relax and don’t rush, you are in Morocco now…

Mexico Lindo – Riviera Maya

Mexico lindo   A must picture

In August’15 we did a 3 week odyssey to Mexico: starting in Playa del Carmen in the South – finishing in Juarez in the North. With 13 GB of pictures it would impossible to put everything in one post. Therefore I will work on my Mexico series to archive my biggest memories from this beautiful beautiful country.

Part I – Riviera Maya

Mexico’s Caribbean cost stretching through the states of Yucatán & Quintana Roo. This part of Mexico is populated by Mayans – beautiful people with most beautiful babies in the world!

7 days spent : we saw a lot, but much more remains to be seen!

Palm tree   Guapa

Where to stay: as a base location we chose a beautiful village of Playa del Carmen. Over the years the place has become very popular among tourists and has so many restaurants/ bars/ nighclubs that it is hard to call it a village. However just leave the centre’s streets and you will find yourself in the real Mexico with local cantinas and taquerias. Traditional Mexican for almost no money.

For my next trip to this region I would also choose to stay in
Tulumup & coming location for many Europeans, plenty of small hotels & restaurants with corresponding European prices.
Isla Mujeres – for it being an island, staying here would make it hard to travel in Riviera. But if you want to lock yourself out in an island with beautiful and still untouched beaches – that’s a place to go!
Punta Allen – a small village reachable by car, bumping 50 km for 1,5 hour on an unpaved road going through Reserva de la Biósfera de Sian Ka´an ( a-must see place).

A small Mayan fishing village with a 2010 census population of 469 inhabitants. Punta Allen has 1 generator that runs electricity to the village during two periods daily; 11am – 2pm and from 7pm – midnight.

Not convinced? It gets even better! No connectivity here! Perfect small village with local restaurants surrounded by emerald blue beaches. Once in Punta Allen hiring a boat is a must! Just go into the wild to follow free lives of turtles, dolphins, variuos species of birds, do some snorkelling and just escape the busy modern live! My most favourite place from my 3 weeks in Mexico!

IMHO avoid Cancun – unless you are looking to spend your holidays in one of the most beautiful nature spots in the world in the hotels strip.

Dream office   Captain oh captain

Punto Alen   Mayan girl

Must see & do:
Tulum pyramides – not the biggest pyramids in Mexico, but probably one out of few standing on the coast. The mix of colours blue/white/green is just breathtaking!
Cenotes – South Mexico is a hot place to be in August. Forget sun tanning on virgin beaches with 40 degrees heat! But nature is offering another way to cool off. Cenotes – cold water lakes in the middle of the palm forests or underground caves. Don’t forget your snorkelling gear and dive in to observe a complete new water world. It is an impressive nature’s piece of work typical for this part of Mexico and Belize.
Chichén Itzá – one of the largest Maya cities and one of the most visited archaeological sites in Mexico. We run out of time to see it – but I am definitely coming back for it!

Stange Mexicans   Zero people beach

Note to myself


Panama Meksika labai graži

I dalis

Meksija puikiai pažįstama šalis tiems kas savo televizorius mėgsta įsijungti šiek tiek po 15 valandos. Mari Mar, Maria la del Barrio, Maria Mercedes bei vergė Izaura puikiai pristato savo šalį ir supažindina su pirmąją taisykle – Meksikoje kontrastų netrūksta.
Lietuvoje ši Centrinės Amerikos šalis taip pat turi gana prieštaringa reputacija. Prieš mažiau nei dešimtmetį šalyje vykę narko grupuočių karai dar ilgai temdys Meksikos saulę jų egzotiškuose paplūdimiuose. Tačiau sostinėje sparčiai populiarėjantys meksikietiško maisto restoranai vis labiau vilioja į šią tolimą ir paslaptingą šalį.

Man Meksika tai spalvota, besišypsanti, dainuojanti ir begalo turtinga šalis. Savo meksikietišką odisėją pradėjau jos karibiškuose pietuose, o užbaigiau po 3 savaičių kirsdama Meksikos JAV sieną šalies šiaurėje. Beje ten šiaurė tai dykumos. Kontrastai… ar ne?

Bet apie viską nuo pradžių…

Savaite Maju Ilankoje

Riviera Maya tai Meksikos karibų jūros pakrantė su visais nuo to neatsiejamais atributais: žydra jūra, palmėmis, baltu smėliu, karšta saule, na ir su šiek tiek mums mažiau pažįstamais reiškiniais kaip požieminiai ežerai – senotės, paplūdimiuose perintys vėžliai, Majų žmonės bei jų kultūra, na ir be abejo visas knibžtantis šnibždantis palmių miškų gyvenimas.

Jeigu į Majų Įlanka jus atgabens lėktuvas pirmieji jūsų žingsiai bus populiariajame Kankune. Neužsibūkite čia, kuo greičiau išsinuomokite mašiną bei leiskitęs žemyn žydrąja pakrante. Pamatyti čia devynios galybės.

_Karmen paplūdimys (Playa del Carmen) tai vietinis Majų kaimelis, beje gana išpopuliarėjęs tarp čia atvykstančių poilsiautoju. Vakarėjant turistai ūžia kaimelio centre bei paplūdimyje įsikūrusiuose vakarietiško stilaus restoranuose, baruose bei klubuose. Tačiau ženkite žingsnį už centro ribų ir jūs jau tikrojoje Meksikos su vietinėmis valgyklomis bei taquerias, kuriuose liežuvius pakutensite aštriai saldžiais skoniais ir už meksikietišką kainą.

_Tulum – apie 50 kilometrų nuo Karmen Paplūdimio įsikūręs miestelis garsėjantis Majų piramidėmis ant jūros kranto. Įspūdiga vieta. Šis miestelis dabar yra ypač pamėgtas europiečių tad kainos čia didesnės, bet jei jūs ieškote šiek tiek kitokios poilsio nei nei 50iaukščiai viešbučiai su baseinais atveriančiais jums vaizdą į jūrą – tai vieta Jums.

_Moterų sala (Isla mujeres) – taip tai sala, bet ši vieta puiki, ypač jei norite pabėgti nuo turistinio šurmulio bei pasimėgauti autentiška atmosfera. Paplūdimiaičia gražūs, gamta dar gražesnė. Tereikės susidraugauti (o tai sunku nebus) su vietiniais, kad parodytų kur tą vakarą gros salsos grupės, Beje, žarijose kepta žuvis čia fantastiška.

_Punta Allen – o va į čia tai norėjau imigruoti. Kaip jums skamba: elektros tiekimas vyksta du kartus per dieną… Nulis ryšio padalų jūsų telefone… Čia pateksite tik po pusantros valandos kratimosi negrįstu keliu einančių palmių mišku viename iš pietinių Meksikos gamtos rezervatų Reserva de la Biósfera de Sian Ka´an. Manau, kad tie kas mielai šveistų savo nenutylančius išmanuosius per langą, įvertins šios vietos tylą ir grožį.

_Chichén Itzá pyramidės, priklausančios UNESCO paveldo sąrašui, yra lankomiausias Meksikos architektūrinis paminklas. Tai kvapą gniaužianti vieta, o naktinis šviesų šou yra kažkas nepaprasto.

_Senotės – požeminiai ežerai – tai unikalus gamtos reiškinys būdingas šiai pasaulio daliai, taip pat dar sutinkamas Australijoje bei keliose Afrikos regionuose. Rugpjūtį Meksikoje liūčių sezonas tik įsibėgėja, tačiau 40 laipsnių karštis neleis ramiai vartytis paplūdimiuose. Tad senotės savo vėsiu ir įspųdingu povandeniniu pasauliu vilioja visus. Jų čia apstu palmių miškuose, uoluose. Pasiimkite akvalangą, lastus ir pirmyn.