A brief guide to Lago di Como

It was one of those long hot summer weekends in the middle of July when we found ourselves in the North of Italy next to Lake Como. We spent the weekend taking refreshing dips into the lake, admiring the surroundings and (of course!) eating. This is my brief set of tips for anyone who wants to spend spring/summer/early autumn weekend in this little piece of paradise.

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My love affair with Mexico City’ part II

Mexico City – one of the biggest, most crowded and busiest places on the face of the Earth. Just imagine the anthill of 22 million people building lives together in the 1485 square meters.

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The fight of shadows at Plaza de toros de La Malagueta

It has now been 10 days that I am living in the south of Spain region of Andalusia. Many of the things that represent Spain around the world have originated from here. And bullfighting is one of them. I know, there is a wide debate about banning the bull-fighting, and some regions of Spain have done it already. But by the look of things here, Andalusia will be the last one, if ever, to let it go…

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Walking the streets of the old Jerusalem

It was the middle of August and we found ourselves in the old city of Jerusalem. The historic importance of this place just blew my mind. The four quarters, the mixture of traditions, stories, lives… It is a cradle of our civilization and the axe of the world!

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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.

Exploring the 3 islands of Malta

The teeny tiny spot in the Mediterranean sea – this is how Malta looks if you try to find it the world atlas. But then in December the 3 of us decided to zoom in to see what treasures this country, settled over the three islands, is hiding inside.

Malta’s surprises:

  1.  The traffic is on the wrong side of the road – it is the legacy of the British rule and influence over the island. The special relation is very much visible in the everyday life: crowds of the British tourists; shops like M&S and Costa cafes to cater for their taste and prices which are more similar to the UK than other Mediterranean countries.
  2. Language –  the sound of Maltese took me by surprise. People behind me in the plane were speaking something that was completely unfamiliar to my ear, so I made a conclusion it was Hungarian… Only later, I realized it is the original Maltese language, which vocabulary is 52% Italian/Sicilian, 32% Siculo-Arabic, and 6% English, with some of the remainder being French. But don’t worry, your won’t have to break your tongue – English is co-official language of the country.
  3. Churches, churches everywhere… Malta tops the list of the religious believes and is easy to see why: everywhere you look you see church(es) in the horizon. Only in Gozo alone you can find 46 churches and it’s a big number for a 67 km² island.
  4. And it is not the only list, where Malta is leading. Malta is also European country with the best LGBT rights. A big lesson to be learnt here for many other secular, yet very conservative, governments, including my native Lithuania!

and now let’s hit the left side of road and start the trip:

Valletta

The capital of Malta and the World Heritage Site. Tiny, feels more like a district than a city. Valletta begins with a panoramic view on the hill at the Upper Barrakka gardens and ends with Fort Saint Elmo all the way down the hill. The famous Saint John’s Co-Cathedral is right in the middle – don’t miss it!

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Gozo

Only half an hour on a ferry and you are in Gozo – the second biggest island of Malta. img_6638img_6637img_6636img_6635

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Azure Window

This rock is one of the biggest attractions in Gozo. Impressive from up close!

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Cittadella

Already from the ferry you can see the crosses of the citadel. A walk through the tiny streets of this walled city is a must. The panoramic views from the top are just spectacular.

Mdina

The old Malta’s capital and another World Heritage site. We were only able to reach Mdina in the evening, and it was breathtaking. Tiny streets, little light, almost no people. Could not get more mystic…But then out of the sudden the light inside this city went out… The only light that was left was from the full moon…

Blue Grotto

Another spectacular nature creation in the main island – the Blue Grotto. Look at it from up the hill and then go down to take a small boat ride through the caves.

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Marsaxlokk

Probably the most popular Sunday’s village in Malta with well advertised traditional fish market. On this day you have locals coming in from around the island and double as many tourists trying to glimpse at this “famous tradition of selling fish”.

The market is just like any other market, anywhere else around the world. But it is a beautiful place for a seafood lunch in the terrace.

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It was a 3 day visit to Malta, and even though we tried to see as much as possible, we had to leave a bunch of things for the next time. Malta is a beautiful mix of nature, architecture, history, and holiday fun for those who visit in the summer. I am definitely coming back again… maybe next December…

and last but not least… a few restaurants, we tried it and we loved it:

La Pira in Valletta for local Maltese food and wine.

Filippo in Marsaxlokk – Italian seafood place in the middle of the most famous market in Malta.