Mostar – Old Bridge


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On the way to Mostar, you can witness to the natural beauties of this country: on a beautiful spring day, everywhere is colored with every tone of green. You start to be immersed to this natural beauty until you suddenly realize a mass grave with its snow-white gravestones; and then, another one, and then another….all showing the same year, as the year of death: “1993”. From Sarajevo on the way to Mostar, you should not expect to see flower fields….

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But you should see Mostar absolutely. It’s easy to go there by bus: you can find almost every hour a bus going to Mostar. The old Ottoman stone bridge, which resisted to all kinds of natural disasters for about 400 years, could not stand to the attacks and was demolished by the Croatians. This is one of the important symbols of Bosnia and the war…In 2004, the restored bridge was opened…..and the Old Bridge of Mostar is now listed on the Unesco World Heritage List.

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Mostar is a small but “picturesque” town; you can see the small stone bridges dating the 16.- 17. Centuries, admire the Neretva River and the beauty of the town from the top of one of the hills; take a rest on a bench in the middle of mass graves (yes, the death and the life are intertwined here, you should get used to it!), or to join to the happiness of a new-wed couple reminding us that the life still continues for who survives….

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Sarajevo Triste!

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Chinese Romantism in Li River

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Best of Shanghai!


I haven’t written for a while on my blog because of work, everyday duties, etc. But meanwhile I started to learn Chinese and I dedicate most of my time to this new activity rather than writing. I really enjoy learning this language, it’s like “deciphering” the meanings. It also shows me how immense the Chinese culture. I was lucky because last month I was in Shanghai where I had the  opportunity to practice what I learned in my Chinese class and observe again closely the Chinese culture.

Here is my list of `Best of Shanghai….Happy travel!

1. MAGEV Magnetic Train:

High speed train. It can attain to 400 km/ hr. I witnessed to 300km./hour. Morning times, the train does 400 km as well. Besides being the most practical mean to Shanghai city center (it takes 45 km. in about 7 minutes), it was a different experience for me (after having travelled in the TGVs and local trains in France and Europe, which are doing 200 km/hr at max.). My friend told me that Japanese trains are much more comfortable (zero  vacillation). I didn’t really feel any swing during my travel in MAGEV either.

When you exit Pudong International Airport, you find easily the MAGEV train platforms. One way ticket is 50 Yuan per person and it’s more expensive than city buses or metro lines. But it’s worth to try it!

2. The Bund and the view of Pearl Tower

This is the most scenic and touristic place of Shanghai. If you have only one day in Shanghai, this is the place to visit….

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3 . Shanghai Urban Planning Museum:

This is the correct starting point to explore Shanghai. Located in the People’s Park (one of the central places of the city, at the end of the East Nanjing street) and between the Contemporary Art Museum and Shanghai Museum, it first appeared to me the least crowded museum (no queue at the entrance) and that’s why I chose it to visit. But once inside, I spent more than 1 hour to see all floors and to follow how Shanghai had changed within time and what its future will look like.

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4. Bund Sightseeing:

I took the funicular which goes under the River from Pearl Tower to the Bund. It takes about 5 minutes. During the short distance travel, sounds and lights effects accompany you.

The funicular at the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel

The funicular at the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel

5. French Concession:

It’s one of the districts of Shanghai where the French concession – together with English one, had been established at the beginning of 20th century. The district has chic boutiques and French style coffees. ‘Shanghai is the Paris of the East!’ what can I say more…!

A coffeehouse in French Concession, Shanghai

A coffeehouse in French Concession, Shanghai

6. Nanjing Street:

The east side of the Street is the pedestrian area and you will find lots of shops and department stores. Check in your guides  the construction dates of the department stores on the East Nanjing Street; most are built at the beginning or in the first half of 20th century.

The West Nanjing Street has a lot of luxury department stores and skyscrapers hosting the offices of multinational companies.

2014, the Horse Year

2014, the Horse Year

7. Old Shanghai

Old Shanghai is the district where you will sense the `real` China. In the narrow and crowded streets you will discover different types of attractions and all kinds of shops.

Old Shanghai District celebrates Horse Year!

Old Shanghai District celebrates Horse Year!

Old Shanghai, crowded

Old Shanghai, crowded

8. Yu Gardens:

Don’t miss this place if you visit the Old Shanghai. The gardens are situated inside the Old Shanghai district and it gives you an idea about the aesthetic taste of the Ming Dynasty.

Yu Gardens, Shanghai

Yu Gardens, Shanghai

Yu Gardens, Shanghai

Yu Gardens, Shanghai

9. Xujiahui – Electronic Markets

Shanghai is a heaven of malls and department stores in China, and if you’re interested in buying – after hard negotiations of course!, electronic devices go to Xujiahui (the metro line is Xujiahui); this is a paradise for electronic lovers….

Chinese Year Decorations inside a Mall in Shanghai

Chinese Year Decorations inside a Mall in Shanghai

10. Visit the water villages outside Shanghai:

This is recommended by all travel guides about Shanghai but unfortunately I didn’t have enough time to do this daily trip, it will be hopefully next time. Instead I’d been in a different place in China and explored the river and the country side…. I’ll write about it in my next post… Until then….`ZAI JIAN!’

 

Shanghai by Day!

Shanghai by Day!

 

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Last days of summer


I didn’t have time to write you about my last days of summer: I spent a couple of these days in Thessaloniki. There, everything was as if surreal and everyone was in a holiday mood.

The famous Aristotle Square, which is the heart of the city was built after a great fire by a French architect almost one century ago. Even this is showing the  mind difference between “true” Mediterranean people who prefer to get rest in the chic cafes and those of hard working westerners (!). Most of the stores were closed in the city because of the country’s financial problems. However everybody was still preferring to spend their times in the cafes, bars and bistrots longing the Mediterranean sea. Nevertheless, this is a city where, if you spend more than, say, a week you can loose your sense of work and discipline and most probably you would start to act as a true Mediterranean , ie., less work more laziness. To be frank, it’s sometimes good to be like a true Mediterranean, the pictures would confirm that…

Thessaloniki by sea….

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Simple but delicious salad!!!

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One of the many beaches in Halkidiki area!!!

Road to the West of Thrace


After a few weeks from my China trip, I had an occasion to see West Thrace for a couple of days. I love this part of Greece maybe because of my family roots. Before writing you what I saw there, I want to tell about my strange road adventure.

How many hours can you wait at the frontier of a country? 4 hours? 6 hours? When I left Turkey to cross the Turkish – Greek customs, I wasn’t having an idea about the limits of my patience to wait. Then I passed almost 15 hours waiting in the long queue of cars and buses. Yes, I waited for 15 hours to pass the frontier! That day was a special day because most of the Turkish families living in Germany and other European countries were heading to their homes after having finished their annual vacation in Turkey! Thus, I had an opportunity to observe sociologically the 3rd or 4th generations of Turkish on the roads! These are my observations:
– all Turkish families were having latest model cars full of fresh vegetables and fruits
– all of them are apparently used to pass lots of time on the roads, hence were very well organized: at the time of dinner the women prepared meals and shared these meals with others…
– new generations, ie, kids, don’t know very well Turkish, they were even pronouncing their Turkish names with a ‘German’ accent!
-all Turkish people are proud of themselves about how speed they will go to their homes in Germany. One man was saying to another: ‘after I pass the Greek frontier, I will go to Munich in 15 hours!’. After the Greek frontier, most had parked by the side roads to have a nap!

In sum, it was a different travel experience for me, when you spend almost one day on the road without moving, you have plenty of times to think about your life!

My last post (but the least) from Beijing : Confucius Temple and The Imperial Academy


The day began with some clouds in the sky. I was targeting to see Lama Temple in the afternoon of that day but it started to rain which slowed my walking. Arrived to the Temple of Lama, it was already late, it was closed. But a few meters away from the Lama Temple, I discovered Confucius Temple still open to visit. It was wonderful – romantic hours waiting for me in the Confucius Temple!

Conficius welcomed us!

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Who is Confucius? I think that everybody knows about him. But I read some information about him to put here. He was born in 551 BC and his real name was Kong Qiu, Confucius is the name given to him by the West. In that era, Buddha was teaching in India and Socrates in Greece. Conficius was unlucky when compared to western or Indian philosophers, he had lived in a country where there were several separate states not unified yet by a ruler. He travelled and taught his wisdom to his disciples. His main focus was the relations between human beings not the search for the existence of God. Accordingly a human being should try to be good. Nobility is not determined by birth but by the attitude of mind and actions resulting from him. However most of the rulers didn’t like his teachings. The Communists too saw an ideological opponent in Confucianism. In the recent years, this attitude started to change.

Back to the Confucius Temple, what strikes me was the gates with names like Gate of First Teacher (the first gate at the entrance) and the Gate of Great Achievements. When you pass these gates followed by short halls and surrounded by very old trees and pavilions you arrive to the main temple where you can admire some ancient musical instruments, which are part of the Confucius teaching I believe.

Pavillions in the temple

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With the combination of silent drops of the rain, this is one of the perfect places in Beijing where you can listen to your inner rhythm.

Ritual in the garden of the Temple

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As old as Confucius times, isn’t it?

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The Imperial Academy is connected to the Temple by a side gate. It was a highest educational institution in China starting from 13th century (The Temple was also built in the same century). The importance if this institution when compared to the universities in the west is that even children of poor people might at end the school if they were good students. In other words, the school was open to all students who merit it and this is one of the major difference in the socio-cultural system in China. You enter to the Academy thru the Gate of Highest Learning. A rectangular place is surrounded with classes, nowadays this building is being used as a government library.

Imperial Academy….

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In the meantime, what Confucius was saying?

“Failure to cultivate virtue and review what I have learned , inability to practice what I have been told to be righteous and unwillingness to correct my mistakes – these are what worries me.”

My trip to Beijing- Summer Palace


This is the second magnificent park which I saw in Beijing. This is not a park actually, it’s the summer palace, was once the summer imperial palace of the Empress Cixi, which is also called Yiheyuan or the Garden of Cultivated Harmony. It was built in the second half of 19th century by the Empress Cixi, one of the powerful figures of the Chinese history. In the middle of the disputes of the heredity and right after the Opium War, she took the power and used the money which was intended to build the Chinese fleet this picturesque palace.

Lake Kunmig covers most part of the palace on the south. The north has a different architectural design with the canals and with the Hill of Longevity. It’s better to start the journey in the morning hours, from the north of the palace, thus you’ll see the old citizens doing their morning tai-chi sports and you will still have the energy to climb the rocks leading to the hill. At the north and around the hill you will see some giant buddhist temples – Temple of the Fragrance of Buddha is the most famous, and have a panorama of the lake and the palace from the top. Once you’ll be down, you’ll find yourself most probably walking under the roofs of the long corridor, a light and elegant wooden construction of 700 metres along the side of the lake where the ceilings and the rafters are decorated with colourful bird and flowers motifs. You may end your trip under these roofs at the point where you’ll admire the grandeur of the Marble Boat of the Empress (it was under renovation unfortunately while I was there).

And at the end of my short trip to there – because it may take a full day!- the calmness of the park had left its place to the tourist crowds and to the unbearable heat. It was time to leave but it’s one of the places in Beijing where I would definitely return one day!

Canals on the north of the palace…

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Morning Tai-Chi…

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Buddhist Temple

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View from the Longevity Hill

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Beautiful decoration on the Long Corridor

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Lake Kunmig

 

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Stone bridge on the south of the palace

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(Climbing to) the Great Wall


I was having two main targets in my trip to China. The first was to see the Terracotta Army, which I talked about in my previous post. The other was to see the Great Wall.

In fact, I think and I believe that the Great Wall should be on the top list of traveller and if I try to become a “true” traveller, I must see it. I did some researches before my trip and I discovered that there are several starting points to see the Wall from Beijing. Badaling part is the easiest and most touristic part. I heard that this part of the Wall was renovated in the 50s and may not be the original Wall. In addition to that, there are also many tourists in Badaling and if you read the comments in TripAdvisor, people are saying that they felt in Badaling like in a Disney world. Hence this option was eliminated at first.

Then I did a detailed search on the internet and I found a club called Beijinghikers. This seemed to me a professional tour which bring people to the “untouched” part of the Wall hence I registered myself to this organization.

There are of course many tours to the Wall, depending on your physical condition and time limitations. I must confess that I was expecting “not easy” but “manageable” hiking to the Wall with this tour. I was mistaken! But my experience of climbing to the Wall with them had been a “true story” for me which I will tell to everybody until the end of my life. The “simple” hiking which I assumed turned out to be unforgettable moments of my life.

The tour was targeting to hike to the Nine-Eyes Tower of the Great Wall, which is on the west side of Jiankou. After 2 hours of travel on a air conditioned bus, we arrived at the end of a road (900 metres above the sea) which immersed to the wild nature afterwards. The route which we supposed to do was 8 km. but our guides told us that we will feel as if it’s 20 km. Packed with lots of waters, we started to climb in a bushy area. That day it was one of the hottest days, but we were in the open air and within the nature. After having climbed almost half an hour, I felt that I was exhausted. I am not a very sportive person, and it was my first hiking experience! But with help of our guides I managed to climb to the top of the mountains, at the 1200 metres of altitude, we came to the Nine-Eyes Tower. At that moment, the whole chain of mountains decorated with the Great Walls and its towers were lying in front of us, a bundle of  feelings of solitude, peacefulness and history were accompanying us. No more words to say. Maybe some pictures will help you understand the beauty of what I’d seen and felt there!

Here are the pictures from the Wall to where we climbed!

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PS: thousands of thanks to the Beijinghikers group, especially to the team members, Jun, Tina and other staff who succeeded to bring me to the top of the mountains to live this fantastic world!