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A Moment of Time

Rostock


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Before transferring to Hotel Sportforum I went for another, longer walk round town.

My first destination was the Kröpeliner Tor, the tallest city gate, but to get there I walked through a park with a stream which followed the path of the old city fortifications.

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I also passed an old Franciscan monastery, now a museum - I didn't have time to go in, unfortunately, but was able to have a quick look at the courtyard.

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After looking at the Kröpeliner Tor I walked down the main pedestrianised street, passing part of Rostock University (the oldest university in continental northern Europe and the Baltic Sea area) on my way.

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My next destination was the Marienkirche, which contains Rostock's pride and joy; a 12-metre high astrological clock, which is the only one in the world still with its original mechanisms. It was built in 1472 by Hans Düringer and is a sight to behold! Carved wooden signs of the zodiac lie around the centre, and at the top, when the clock strikes midnight and midday wooden figures of six of the apostles come out of a row of doors and parade round Jesus. I got to see this as I timed my visit specially on Sunday morning to coincide.

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Underneath the main part of the clock was a fantastically detailed disc which tells people the exact date on which Easter falls in any given year. Each disc has space for 130 years and the last disc expired and was replaced in 2017. I tried to find out when Easter will be next year, but it was so incredibly complicated I couldn't!

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It lies behind the main altar and had handily-placed seats in front. As I took a seat and gazed at it, enveloped in silence save for the low, slow but audible tick-tock of the clock, I was overcome with the sense of history. I could almost see the woodcarver who had carved the signs of the zodiac. Time hung around me, suspending me in the moment. I felt a great sense of calm and peace.

The rest of the church was interesting too. There were more model ships hanging from the ceiling (like at the Petrikirche), an impressively massive (almost) floor-to-ceiling Baroque organ, an embroidery dating from the 16th century and a large gilded triptych of which I unfortunately forgot to note the date and artist.

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The only downside to the who place was that it was freezing cold!

After getting some lunch from a bakery I admired the Town Hall in the Neuer Markt before returning to the hostel to pick up my bags.

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My walk to Hotel Sportforum took a lot longer than it should have done, firstly because another wheel on my big case broke so it became slower and more difficult to get it about, and secondly because I took a wrong turn. Still, although I was knackered by the time I arrived, there was some lovely scenery on the way. These crocuses were the first sign of spring that I noticed on this Central European trip.

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View from my window, Hotel Sportforum.

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Posted by 3Traveller 13:42 Archived in Germany Tagged churches art buildings hotel germany museum monastery rostock fortifications Comments (0)

UNESCO World Heritage Site: Historic Centre of Vienna

The start of a six-week trip through Austria and northern Germany with a side trip to Slovenia and ending in Prague.


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In Vienna for a group induction/ training weekend before moving on to my teaching destination for the next week.

The view from my hotel room:

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Due to the nature of the weekend there wasn't much time to see the city, but very early this morning, after breakfast, I managed a walk into the historic centre. The sun was rising and the sky was clear; one of those fresh and crisp winter mornings I really love. A thrill of excitement ran through me as I walked the almost-empty streets and admired the architecture.

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Once in the inner town I came across a covered pathway with windows showing a yard with white horses looking out of stalls. I realised that they were some of the famous white Lipizzaner horses of the Spanish Riding School. While I was watching a girl came round with a wheelbarrow to muck them out.

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When I got to the Stephansdom I went inside, though as a tourist most of it was closed off to me as Mass was just starting.

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I stayed for a bit anyway, looking at the bit I was allowed into and lighting a candle, before exiting and walking round the outside. I'm not too keen on the green, red and black patterned tiled roof, but I like the rest of it. The view from the tower was amazing - definitely worth the climb, which was probably one of the highest sets of spiral steps I've been up!

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There was no time over the weekend to go to any museums, but yesterday evening I went to the historic Seven Stars brewery/pub - definitely a place I'll be returning to when in Vienna in the future! It was very atmospheric inside and the cheese & bacon gnocchi I tried was lovely. There was a list of all the different kinds of schnapps on offer - decided to give them a miss on this occasion but will definitely be giving them a try over the next few weeks!

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Speaking of food, on Friday evening at a different place I had a tasty clear beef broth with a semolina dumpling plus a side of Swabian pasta - I thought it might come with vegetables, but it didn't. Both that and the broth were still really nice, though the broth was smaller than I expected.

When I got back from the historic centre it was time to pack up, check out and head off to the station to my first teaching destination...

Posted by 3Traveller 10:34 Archived in Austria Tagged vienna hotel austria cathedral brewery explorations unesco_world_heritage_site austrian_cuisine Comments (0)

Selçuk: aqueduct, storks, basilica and fortress

Izmir and Selçuk


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On Friday morning in Izmir we had time for breakfast before we walked to Basmane Station for our train to Selçuk. The walk was very hot - Izmir was the hottest place yet, even hotter than the interior, something I was surprised about. We passed through a beautiful large park, though, which was nice and shady on places.

The train was very shiny and modern, with more legroom than on British trains. There were TV screens showing some brilliant silent, funny, animated clips of animals saving themselves from predators by grouping together, with a caption afterwards (in English) saying 'better to travel in groups' and then 'go by bus'. When the screens weren't showing those, they were showing clips of whales, dolphins and deep sea creatures swimming underwater - not animated, they looked like they had been shot for a nature documentary.

Our journey was only an hour, but these clips made it seem even quicker. The scenery helped, too; we passed loads of orchards and fields of lush-looking crops with mountains in the background. I couldn't quite work out what some of these crops were, though I think some of the orchards were of fig trees, and some of the fields were of vines.

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I was completely charmed when we arrived in Selçuk and we walked out of the station to be greeted by the sight of what I assumed were aqueduct remains.... and topped with stork nests with storks perched in them! I'd seen storks before in Bulgaria, of course, but the only times I'd seen them in their nests I was in a car and therefore unable to take any photos.

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Artemis Hotel, our destination, was only round the corner. It was very good, and the first place we'd stayed at that had air conditioning in our bedroom rather than a fan. We had showers and rested for a bit before heading out again.

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We walked for about ten minutes to St John's Basilica, stopping for ice creams and cold drinks on the way. Constructed in the 6th century AD by the Emperor Justinian I, it covers the believed burial site of John the Apostle.

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The ruins are quite extensive and lie on a hill with some fantastic views of the valley stretching all the way to the sea less than 10 km away. The scenery looked quite Biblical to me, or at least how I imagine the more fruitful parts of the Middle East might look today. We could see in a field a long upright pillar; all that remains of the Temple of Artemis, one of the seven Ancient Wonders of the World.

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From the basilica we could go further up Ayasuluk Hill to the fortress, so we did. Partially reconstructed, it dates from Byzantine, Seljuk and Ottoman times; before then there were other fortresses on this site, going back to the Neolithic Age. We saw remains of water cisterns, a small mosque, dwellings and some other things.

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Part of the walls were roped off, but we got even better views from what we could access than from the basilica.

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After another short rest to recover from the heat at our hotel, we had a lovely dinner at a small restaurant round the corner. We shared some stuffed vine leaves, yoghurt with herbs and olive oil and a bowl of 'sea beans' (samphire- not something I expected to find here, but I suppose we are near the coast!) and some complementary bread. To add to that, I had a vegetarian Pide (Turkish pizza) and Dave had a mixed kebab.

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We shared the only dessert on the menu, a gorgeous concoction of coconut, ground semolina and milk squished together into flattened balls, topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and drizzled with chocolate sauce.

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Posted by 3Traveller 03:22 Archived in Turkey Tagged birds trains mosque hotel basilica turkey izmir dave storks selcuk fortifications roman_remains turkish_cuisine Comments (0)

Mediterranean Turkey: Izmir

Cappadocia, Istanbul and Izmir


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Our shuttle to Kayseri airport was due to leave at 8 am; this was exactly the same time that breakfast was supposed to start. Luckily for us, the lovely owner of Star Cave Hotel kindly got some breakfast for us five minutes early!

The airport shuttle stopped at another hotel to pick up another couple. The journey to the airport was rushed; at one point the driver tried to run a red light but had to brake suddenly when he realised he wouldn't make it through if he carried on. The woman in the other couple started shouting and swearing at the driver, who said he was sorry but was in a big hurry because he was also delivering a passport urgently to someone who had forgotten it. The woman wouldn't let up about it, but by the time we arrived at the airport she had quietened down and even thanked him when she got off.

It was another sunny, clear day and throughout our shuttle journey we got a wonderful view of Mount Erciyes, which is an extinct volcano and the highest mountain in Cappadocia. Its peak looked covered in ice and snow.

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We were met by a 40 minute flight delay, but time passed quickly and then we were in the air, saying goodbye to Cappadocia. Our final destination of the day was Izmir, on the western coast, but we had to go via Istanbul. I was lucky enough to get a window seat, so I took lots of photos.

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The views were amazing, especially of the coastline of the Sea of Marmara as we got closer and closer to Istanbul. At one point before that, when we were still fairly near the centre of the country, I saw something strange - a huge area of whiteness, definitely not a cloud. It was quite far in the distance, but it looked like a massive white hole with water pouring inwards from every side - very surreal. I guessed it was probably a salt lake.

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Our 1hr 20 minute flight to Istanbul was followed by an hour's wait in transit and then another 1hr 20 minute flight to Izmir. Izmir is the 3rd biggest city in Turkey and lies on the coast of the Aegean Sea. It was formerly the fabled Greek city of Smyrna...

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We took a train from the airport to a station just round the corner from our hostel. Our room in this hostel - ('Shantihome') - did not have a lock; apparently it went against the philosophy of the owners to have locks on the doors... Oh well - we were only here for one night, so we just took our valuables out with us when we headed out for dinner and a walk-round.

We were in the leafy neighbourhood of Alcansak, next to the seafront - the sea being the Aegean Sea! Neither Dave nor I had been to this sea before. Izmir is apparently a proudly liberal city for Turkey, and I soon noticed a much higher proportion of women not wearing headscarves than we'd seen in Istanbul and Cappadocia. There appeared to be fewer mosques, too.The atmosphere did seem to have a Mediterranean tinge to it, with the liberality I mentioned before, the lemon tree we could see out of our window, the mussel stalls on the pavements in front of nearly every café and restaurant, and the palm trees.

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After Skopje and Ruse, in Macedonia and Bulgaria, it was lovely to see that Izmir has made a lot of their waterfront. It's beautiful, with a wide stretch of well-kept grass and walkways. There's no beach, but rather a very low brick wall laid with wooden planks for people to sit on. Although I think the tide was in, the sea was too low to be able to touch it when I sat with my legs over the edge.

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After walking around for a while we stopped in a pedestrian street parallel to the seafront for dinner at a café. I had a delicious type of kebab I'd never had before, which I think was local to Izmir; it had tomato sauce, yoghurt, parsley and either beef or lamb as well as flatbread. Dave had a mixed kebab which came with rice, salad and yoghurt. To finish, Dave had Turkish tea and I had my best Turkish coffee yet - all the ones I've had so far have been good, but this was the absolute best so far.

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Posted by 3Traveller 14:55 Archived in Turkey Tagged volcanoes hotel airport cappadocia turkey istanbul izmir hostel dave turkish_cuisine Comments (0)

Arrival in Cappadocia

Istanbul and Göreme


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At 03.15 am we got a shuttle to Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen Airport. Waiting for the shuttle at three am, we were expecting all the streets to be deserted, but to our surprise we saw several men sitting at tables in front of closed restaurants and cafés, chatting with friends. We guessed it might be something to do with Ramadan - I know that they can't eat until sundown, so they need to get all their meals in during the night.

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At the airport there was a beautiful exhibition of travel photography to look at while we waited for our flight, which took off half an hour late at about 07.30.

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An hour and five minutes after that we arrived at Nevşehir Airport, where we were picked up and taken to our amazing hostel/hotel in Göreme.

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Fantastic place, fantastic setting amongst lots of fabulous 'fairy chimney' rock formations. Our hotel is built into one of them! We were welcomed with free tea, coffee and plate of delicious, moist cheese puff things.

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After half an hour or so of sitting in the lovely courtyard, we were allowed to check in early. Our room is amazing! it's cavernous yet comfortable, with stone walls and ceiling, a tiled floor, cupboards cut out of the walls and archway over the head of our bed. There's a terrace above us with a spectacular view...

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We caught up on sleep for several hours, before venturing out to explore. It is so pleasant here! Just round the corner from our hotel was a large area of ground covered in piled-up blocks of white stone - a stonemason had clearly been at work here in the open air, though he wasn't to be seen at that moment.

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Five minutes later, just as we passed a mosque the muezzin began his call to prayer. After a lovely wander round town we had an early dinner at a café - a Turkish savoury pancake and some rice pudding for me, a sandwich for Dave and a chocolate milkshake each.

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Posted by 3Traveller 12:25 Archived in Turkey Tagged art night hotel airport cappadocia turkey istanbul dave turkish_cuisine Comments (0)

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