lunedì 26 novembre 2012
Who doesn't have an idea of what Vietnam looks like after seeing dozens of war movies? We all know about the green fields with water buffalos,the wonderful sunsets, people walking around with the typical Vietnamese hat. We mostly remember images of that disgraceful war though, and of all the pain and sorrow it caused. I chose this video because it combines extracts of one of my favourite Vietnam war movies (Full metal Jacket) and another great one (although not one of my favourites) (Forrest Gump), accompanied by a great song sung by one of the greatest voices of rock. (John Fogerty when he was with CCR). I actually think the best war movie about Vietnam of all times is Apocalypse now followed by The Deer Hunter. With these considerations in mind a few years ago I decided to explore the country given my deep love for South East Asia at the time. Huong Sen where at breakfast me met a few Italian couples who had come to Vietnam to adopt their children and it made me think about how retrograde our country is in this respect, since in order to be eligible for adoption you have to be married for three years. Therefore if you are just a couple living together or a single parent you are banned from applying. I guess this is what you get for having the Vatican at your doorstep. In general I didn't really like Saigon although it has some highlights I really enjoyed. For example all the Pagodas: Giam Lac , Jade Emperor Pagoda, Quan Am,Phuoc An Hoi Quan and many others. Huong Lai Everybody working here is a street child as they point out on the menu, and the owner supports the local orphanages also by giving them meals regularly. From there you can take a taxi or a train and go to the Mekong Delta. I didn't really see that much of it when I went there but you'd better stay for a few days and enjoy it because it's a place that needs to be seen properly. I remember I had an interesting conversation with a guide about how disgusting some European and Japanese food is since: while in Vietnam they eat, amongst others, dog, cat or mouse meat (I know i know.. I just makes me want to cry) us disgusting Europeans eat raw meat and the disgusting Japanese eat raw fish......(what's there to say?) We took a five hours bus ride to see what the Lonely Planet calls a " must see" a place in the mountains called Dalat. Well, you know how some guides are more reliable than others also amongst the ones by Lonely Planet. The one about Vietnam is not in fact at all reliable in my opinion . Dalat turned out to be a real let down so I would suggest not to go there at all. Plus it was cold and humid which didn't make it any better. From the pictures it may look nice but I think that can be misleading. La Bella Napoli. Brothers Cafè where you can go and have a nice and fancy meal. A good thing to do, if you are not too fussy is to sit in the street and have Pho Bo a beef noodle soup, or vietnamese Spring rolls. Or you can just sit in a cafè and have a Vietnamese coffee(Ca phe). If you never had one and you're a coffee lover then it's a MUST.
venerdì 23 novembre 2012
Well, after Turkey I thougt to accept my parents' invitation to celebrate my birthday in the Croatian island of Hvar. In order to do that I took a flight from Istanbul to Zagreb and then another one from Zagreb to Split. I had to wake up at 5 in the morning get to Ataturk airport in Istanbul, which took me over an hour and then go over all the check in and clearance procedures which took me also a long time. While I was in line I noticed at least four or five quarrels between passengers or between passengers and airlines personnel or policemen at passport control. Of course I didn't understand a word but I thought of it as a good thing since al least Turks speak up and don't take rubbish from others. I notice in Italy now people tend to take everything without complaining. When I arrived to Zagreb i had a three hours and a half layover and believe me: there is nothing in that airport. When I say nothing I mean nothing. I basically fell asleeep on one of those chaise long like chairs for a while and waited for my flight to Split which took less than 45 minutes. I had been to Split many years ago but I didn't really visit it properly. The center is lovely and Diocletian palace is absolutely a must see. Outside there are a lot of women selling little packs of lavender which you find everywhere in that area. The center of Split is fantastic: all white marbles and beautiful architecture. From there you can walk to the port and take the fast boat or the ferry to Hvar where I spent a few days. Hvar is well known for its nightlife but when I got there most of the people had gone plus the weather after a couple of days turned bad and rainy. The worst was on my birthday: rain all the time and coldish wind(!). Anyway I had a nice and quiet time there. We had the sea just in front of the house. Want to see what I'm talking about? Yes the first picture is me by the sea looking very seaside. As far as things to do in Hvar I cannot suggest a lot of because I didn't party nor explore so much as I was saying. However on the dining side I would suggest to go to konobas which are like tavernas where the food is genuine and much better than restaurants I would say. The one I liked better was Konoba Nono in Jelsa an hour away from Hvar town. In town I tried Lesina which I thought was good homemade food and Alviz very popular amongst the locals. The cuisine is very good: mostly seafood cooked with wine and vegetables like Gregada, a fish stew with potatoes or Buzara, shellfish in a wine and parsley sauce. Very tasty. My long summer ended taking the ship to Ancora from Split on a melancholic tuesday night. I had tasted, lived , breathed the Mediterranean which is and always will be the natural habitat for my species: after all I was born and raised by the beautiful Mediterranean sea and I'll always bring with me. Can't wait until next summer...
martedì 6 novembre 2012
Well in a way it's true that Italians and Turks are one face one race maybe more that with the Greeks at least in my personal experience. My dear friend Idil is Turkish and we managed for many years to meet somewhere in the world to spend some time together. This year it was Kalymnos and Datca on the Eagean coast of Turkey. Then it extended to one of my favourite cities in the world : the magnificent Istanbul. When we left Kalymnos to go to Kos in order to take the catamaran to Bodrum the temperature was of almost 40 degrees. Two of us had already a ticket and the other two (including me of course ) didn't. Basically they let us wait in a line which lasted forever to tell us there were no more tickets for Turgutreis, so we had to split from the other two. The heat and the long wait caused a Greek-Turkish incident on the pier but finally we all went on board even if on two different catamarans to two different places in the Bodrum peninsula. Thank God I had a real gentleman with me who helped carry my heavy luggage around at Kos and around Bodrum city in the heat and the confusion that there is in that place . I was there last year and it was already a no-no. I can certainly confirm . I found a very nice pansyion there where to spend the night and the next day I was off to Datca with my friend by boat. If you have been on the Eagean coast of Turkey you have probably seen a lot of wonderful places yet not so touristic . Well Datca is one of them. The temperature was of 40 degrees or something but one could jump into the sea which is also into town and the colour of the water is fantastic believeme. See? Now when in Turkey do what the Turks do right? In those lazy afternoons even if it was hot one would go in and out of the water, sun bathe and then have some beer and mussel dolma by the sea. What's mussel dolma? Exactly this. Datca is famous for the almond trees which give hundreds of tasty almonds and the food there is delicious. There is a place called Fevzinin Yeri which is a lovely fish place although a bit expensive. The fish soup and the mezes were really really good. We stayed in a very nice boutique hotel up on a little hill overlooking the bay called Villa Tokur It's owned by a turkish -german couple. Breakfast is very good and is served in the dining room close to the garden where cats come to ask for food. In Turkey there are a lot of stray cats and dogs. Believe me: A LOT but as I said in my former post about Turkey, people take care of them and feed them most of the time. My friend left for Istanbul and I decided to meet her there the next day, so in order to get closer to Dalaman airport I decided to spend a night in Marmaris. Well I don't think I'll ever go back there unless I want to feel like an understudy on the set of Eastenders and eat Yorkshire pudding or Indian Chinese English buffets for 5 euros all you can eat. I thought it was horrible so I will not even indulge in describing it. Just take my word for it : if you can avoid it. You ahve been warned. Finally I came to the splendid, wonderful,gorgeous,one of my favourite cities in the whole world: Her majesty Istanbul. Well if you haven't been there yet I strongly suggest you reconsider your travel plans and go becasue you are really missing on something- believe me . Now, since i have been there a few times and I have seen all the most touristic places, this time i went to visit what I'll call alternative Istanbul with my friend who is the perfect guide. First, I went to see Kilic Ali Pasa Mosque which is one of the mosques made by famous architect Sinan . It has a cemetery nearby with sails since it is known as the sailors cemetery. Very close to it you can find Istanbul modern, the museum of modern art which I didn't visit thouroughly but went just inside to have a look. It is supposed to have a bautiful view on the sea but unfortunately there was a cruise ship which blocked it all. If you feel like going for a coffee you can try a few meters away where there are lovely places where to sit and relax in perfect Turkish style. A turkish stylish cafe Kilic Ali Pasa Mosque Istanbul modern and cruise ship Turkish tea Then with my friend we decided to meet nearby Taksim square and go to the museum Orhan Pamuk has opened which recreates the contents of his book The museum of innocence I thought it was a wonderful experience. First we went to buy the book for me, which contains a ticket for the museum, and then we went to visit it. I hadn't read the book but I thought it was brilliant and now that I am reading it it's even more interesting. Then we took a taxi and went to visit Suleymaniye Mosque also by architect Sinan which is incredibly beautiful and from which you have a wonderful view of the city. We went to walk nearby and my fried took me to Tarihi Vefa Bozacisi, a very old and fascinating place where they serve ice cream and ottoman drinks like Boza, made from fermented wheat.Then we went to Mihrimah mosque also by Sinan the story of which is beautifully described on my friend's travel blog http://www.travelmind-idilka.blogspot.com. The museum of innocence Mihrimah View from Sulemaniye Mosque Tarihi Vefa Bozacisi Boza - We then ended this pefect day with a beautiful dinner in a very good Ottoman restaurant Asitane with lovely ambiance and delicious food. it is located in Edirnekapi one of the most important areas of old Istanbul. Take a walk around before or after dinner an you'll be mesmerized by the fascination of the streets and the view of the Golden Horn. It is close to Chora Church where apparently there are very interesting byzantinian mosaics. It was closed when I got there so I couldn't see them. While we were walking in the streets before going home since I had to take a plane to Zagreb at dawn I was thinking that this is one of the few places where I could live happily. Maybe then I should marry a Turk and i actually wouldn't mind.. Ladies you know what I am talking about.. Or else keep coming here until I feel like it which is a very long time I bet. It was time to leave unfortunately but my heart stayed there. I must have been Turkish in another life. Until next time beautiful Constantinopolis it was time to reach the coast of Croatia... (to be continued)