Me, myself and I » August 2016

Monthly Archives: August 2016

Various

Visiting Bari, Italy

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I have overlooked southern Italy since beginning of time. I just didn’t know anything there worth seeing. However, just an hour and a half and 50 euro away with WizzAir, i decided to give it a try and flew to Bari this January for a long weekeng.

Climate

It was much warmer than Bulgaria. While we had a nasty winter in Sofia with -15C it was +10-15C in Bari. Not bad for end of January so there is no winter really there. However, summer can be terribly hot so for sight-seeing anytime except June-September should be fine.

Food

Food is always good in Italy and Puglia district is no exception. Sea food, pizza and pasta is the main theme. Wine is also worth trying – it is one of the best wine producing regions in Italy probably only next to Toscana.
Pizza Time
Pizza Time

Getting around by car

That is very easy – they have kind of a highway that runs north-south that takes you from place to place pretty fast. It is not first quality autobahn but is free. Rent-a-car is pretty cheap – if you don’t want anything fancy – 17-20 euro per day is quite feasible for a Fiat 500 or VW Golf. On the other pole is gasoline – one of the most expensive in Europe – 1.5-1.6 euro per lt.
Get around by car
Getting ready…
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Hooray, Good weather in January!

Bari

Bari is an average size city with around 300,000 citizens. It is the capital of a region called Puglia. All i knew about it was that it is a ferry hub between Greece and Italy. It turned out that Bari is an immensely lively city – it was swarming with people on a Saturday night – all restaurants and shops were full. And that was in January when most were locals. So pretty good impression there.
Bari on a Friday Night
Bari on a Friday Night

Prices

South Italy is known to be much more budget friendly that the northern counter part. I confirm that. Prices are normal – pizza in a restaurant is 7-10E, beer is 2-3E, bottle of wine in a restaurant 7-20E and a neat hotel goes for 50-60E. That is january-wise though.

Olive oil and olives

Interesting fact is that Puglia is the biggest producer of olives and olive oil. There is a huge valley with 1000+ year old trees. And it is thousand of them – sight is spectacular. Another interesting thing is that there were hundreds of trees that nobody cared about and it was tons of olives fallen on the ground.
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This tree is > 1000 years old and there are many of them.
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A tiny part of the vast amounts of olive trees.

Alberobello

One of the must sees in the region. That is a small traditional village 60 km off Bari full of Trulli houses. It is even a designated Unesco world heritage.  Nearby are Martina Franca and Locorotondo that are also worth visiting and are doable in a day.
Trulli
Traditional Trulli houses
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Catching some sun light.

Monopoly

Monopoly is a sea town again circa 60 km off Bari south. It has a very neat old town and offers a very pleasant walk. Sights over the sunset are amazing too.
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Monopoly’s streets
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Monopoly

Masserias

These are farm houses, that often offer accommodation and food. That’s where you can get one of the best food as most of the ingredients are home grown. We had the luck to have lunch in such  a place with a 5 course meal. Trully – it was one of the best gastronomic experiences i have ever had. First they took us to the garden, than to the place where they used to make olive oil and then took us to the restaurant. So it was a whole experience and not only order and go. The name is Il Frantoio. They grow thousands of olive trees and make one of the best olive oil you are going to try. You can buy some if you want to of course.
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Having a tour at the masseria…and getting hungry.
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Waiting for the 6 course meal of home grown vegetables and meat.
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Some starters.
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Lamb. Yammy.
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Don’t leave without a desert.
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Boasting about a couple of dozens home grown herbs.
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Liquer for every taste.
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Masserias are mainly about growing olives but not only.

Castel del Monte

A very nice surprise even for people like me that don’t appreciate historic sites that much. This castle is on a hill and offers amazing views. It is known for its perfect octagonal shape and is on the Unesco world heritage list. It was build in 13-th century and the magnitude and the geometric precision is astounding. You can go inside also even though it undergoes some renovation.
Castel Del Monte
Castel Del Monte
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I would suggest to have Bari and Puglia on your tourist road map – it is close, it is cheap and it offers many things to see and do over a weekend. 3 days are ok but having 4 or 5 would be best to go around and see most of the stuff (including Lecce and Brindisi where we didn’t get to).
Various

10 reasons why you should be cremated and turned to a tree after you die

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I came across Bios Urn recently and got stunned by the idea. What they basically offer is an Urn which holds your ashes and also a plant seed so that a tree grows out of your ashes. At first it was a weird idea to digest but after it stayed with me for a while, now i think that it is genius. Here is why:
  1. You have someone plant a tree after you die and that’s a good think.
  2. You can ‘plant’ your relatives in your house’s yard so that you can be with them all the time after their death. Otherwise, how often would you visit the graveyard?
  3. When you grow in a tree, you will do good even after your death. The tree is supposed to give fruit, shadow and fresh air.
  4. People will be much more connected to the land. You will appreciate your land more when you have your relatives resting there.
  5. We solve the problem with graveyards. They require huge plots of land and are always short of it. It can get really expensive to get a spot there. We can turn graveyards into beautiful gardens with few efforts.
  6. We are thought all our lives that we should think and live out of the box and we end up in a box. Does not seem natural.
  7. You can have the right tree to mirror your personality. Ending up in a grave is so uniform.
  8. Turning yourself into tree is so natural. They breath what we exhale and we breath what they exhale. Indians believed that people’s spirits lived in trees so they venerated them.
  9. You cut church from the funeral monopoly. I really don’t think that something so personal as a funeral should be carried out by stranger priest.
  10. You can get the tree around if you move but it is hard to have someone exhumed and moved to another place.
Various

Visiting Tenerife

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First Things First or Why consider Tenerife

Tenerife is one of the best and closest to Europe places that you can go. It is very different from everything you have seen in Europe and very exotic. It boasts with a close to 4000 meters peak, incredible beaches with black sand, picturesque nature and very warm and friendly people. It is the biggest island of the Canary archipelago and host one of the best cities in Spain if you like culture, good food and nature. It is big enough so that you wont be bored even if you stay a month. The island is around 80 km long but has 2 entirely different climates which i must tell very impressing – from the deserts to the lush greenery in an hour. Same in the altitude – from sea level to almost 4000 m and back for a day. If you are interested read on.

Getting there from Bulgaria

Best thing is that you can fly to Tenerife low cost – wizz air + ryan air. It is either Sofia – Milano – Tenerife or Sofia – Madrid – Tenerife, whatever you decide. Problem is that you might need to spend a night in Milan or Madrid as the flights don’t always match perfectly. Money-wise 250E would be enough for a 2 way ticket.

Getting around

The best way to go around is to rent a car. Car is cheap (15E a day for a car as Opel Corsa) and gasoline is also very cheap. Even though roads might be narrow and curvy in some places, they are manageable. Also there is a high way that almost goes round the whole island. And it is free.
curvy road
That’s how curvy roads might be. Note the natural pool as one of the tips.
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The roof of that triangle building is a road.

Climate

That is one of the best parts – Tenerife has a spring like climate all year round. It is most of the time 20-25 degrees except the winter months when you get ca 15 degrees. It is interesting that the island has two climate types – the southern when it is hotter and drier and the norther where it is damper and a bit colder. You often get mists in the north in the morning. Because of the two climates, the island has entirely different look and feel in the two parts – you literally feel in two worlds. The south is a very desert-like sight while you have lush tropic – like flora and a never ending flower scent.
South Tenerife
This is how scenery looks in south Tenerife
Tenerife North
…and this is the north – full of greenery.

Beaches and sun-bathing

Bathing is the Atlantic Ocean  is no joke. It might be quite cold and rough.
rough seas
That’s why they have man made concrete pools (called natural pools) in the ocean that get filled with ocean water naturally.
natural-swimming-pool
Tenerife boasts with some very good beaches. There are wide and sandy beaches in the Los Christianos Area (south).
Nice and sandy beaches in south Tenerife
Don’t miss to hit the beaches with black vulcanic sand. One of the most spectacular is El Bollullo.
El Bollulo beach
Black Volcanic sand
El Bollulo beach
Black sand and rough sea
El Bollulo from above

Pico del Teide

Teide is another world in Tenerife – that is the mountain in the center of the island and is 3718 m high. I must tell you it is pretty amazing to be on a 3718 m high peak and be sunbathing in one and the same day. You have two options to go for the peak. One way is to go with the car to where the road ends and get the cable car to the foot of the peak. If you are more adventorous you can walk up from Montana Blanca and even sleep at the hut on the way up. They say it offers one of the clearest skies in night for the star gazers in the whole world. Didn’t try it out.
teide hut
In front of the refugee
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this is what the night sky looks like in Teide
Whichever way you choose, you will get only to the foot of the peak. To get to the top, you will need a reservation with Spain’s national parks bureau as there are many people that want up and officials need a way to conserve the peak (it is a crater of a living volcano). If you don’t make it to the very peak the whole experience is amazing – views are breathtaking. Just remember to bring with you some warm clothes – it is very windy and chilly up there and weather changes in a moment so rain is also a possibility.
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Pico del Teide – 3718 m high

Hiking

Tenerife is one of the best hiking destinations in Europe. We met a german guy that was for the 6-th time in Tenerife and said that he hasn’t gone around the whole place yet. If you are into hiking, I would recommend you to go north to the Chinamada area – there are a few very good tracks there one going all the way down from Chinamada to Punta del Hidalgo. Another amazing experience is the Masca track – truly one of the best i have ever walked. It quite strenuous though – around 2 hours of a very steep descent. When you get finally to the shore there are two ways – up (around 3-4 hours of very steep accent) or take a water taxi to Acalantidos los Gigantes and then a taxi back to Masca where you probably left your car. Mount Teide is another very popular trekking place but i didn’t make it to there.
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End of Masca trail – right at the sea
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Start of Masca trail
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Masca. Amazing, isn’t it?
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Masca
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Chinamada
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Chinamada
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Chinamada
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Chinamada

Places to eat

The best one that we went to was El Monasterio in the north west. This a complex of a couple of cafes, restaurants and an exotic garden. The whole thing spans over a hill and size and quality is amazing – totally worth it. Another good one is Terazzas del Sauzal – very picturesque place and wonderful food. A bit of high prices but bearable. Another good place near Tacoronte is Casa del Vino which is a restaurant and a wine museum in one. Very good desert and normal prices. Casa Odon is also in the Tacoronte area and offers great bang for the buck – delicious food and big portions.
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Some fancy desert in Terrazas del Sauzal
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Choosing from the menu with Pico el Teide as background @ Terrazas del Sauzal
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Cod served with class @ Terrazas del Sauzal
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Chill out at El Monasterio Gardens
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El Monasterio gardens
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Good old Paellha @ El Monasterio
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El Monasterio entrance

Cities and resorts

Tenerife has about a million inhabitants and 220,000 of them live in the capital – Santa Cruz. Other that being a capital, Santa Cruz is not a very interesting place. Near by is La Laguna which has an university of 30,000 and as you can imagine a very vivid night life. Also La Laguna is the cultural capital of The Canary Islands. Another cities worth seeing are La Orotava and Puerto de la Cruz. La Orotava boasts with an unique valley that offers wonderful climate, sights and very fertile soil. Puerto de la Cruz is a more touristic town and has a very neat city center. Parking os awful there though.Both cities have a loth of greenery and magnificent parks. Next to Puerto de la Cruz is Loro Parque – a big park and zoo. If you find time definitely go see it. We could not. In the south you can find predominantly tourist cities – big hotels, long streets of cafes and restaurants etc. If you are that kind of person go for it – Los Christianos and Playa de la America are the places for you. However, i recommend to stick with the more traditional and local places in the north and west.
la orotava valley
La Orotava Valley
Icod de los Vinos
Icod de los Vinos
la-orotava
La Orotava gardens
La Orotava
La Orotava streets
Puerto de la Cruz
Puerto de la Cruz

Prices

Prices in Tenerife are not scary – i always thought it is reserved for the rich and famous but it is very affordable. For example e meal and a drink in a regular restaurant is 12-25 E per person. Groceries are cheap, gasoline is incredibly cheap (70 cent a liter @ 2015). We stayed with AirBnb at a very nice and affordable place – around 40E per night. The host turned out to be not that friendly though at the end.  So if you are a budget type of person you can manage it very well. Of course if you want treats, prepare to pay.

Every Day Life

People seem to enjoy life and not giving themselves a hard time. They are friendly, relaxed and take regular breaks ? They also have a very strong community identity. We witnessed on a Friday afternoon how the kids from the local school go with their parents in the local church and sing and pray and kiss like there is no tomorrow. That was a very remembering experience for me as people in Bulgaria hardly greet each other in the street.
Everyday life
Everyday life @ Tacoronte

Conclusion

I would recommend Tenerife with both hands. It is very close to Europe, rather cheap and very exotic. There is a lot to see and do – culture, hiking, sun-bathing. No need for visa, friendly people and incredible atmosphere.
Books

The Spinoza Problem By Irwin Yalom

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spinoza problemThis has been a surprisingly interesting book. It is a mixture of historical facts and fiction that ‘might have actually happened’ as Yalom puts it.
The plot goes back and forth between life of influential jewish philosopher Baruch Spinoza in Netherlands in the 17-th century and the life of Nazi ideologist Alfred Rosenberg in 20-th century.
Spinoza was a jew that was expelled from the jewish community as he refused to believe the religious stories and abide by the religious rituals. He disobeyed priests and often mocked people being superstitious. He held the opinion that people should rely on their reasoning instead. Spinoza wanted to make religions and ethnicity obsolete. He explained everything in a scientific way with causes, stimulus and results.
Rosenberg on the other hand was a dogmatic that hated jews and thought that they caused all evil in the world. He, however, was amazed how a jew as Spinoza could influence so many respected Germans as Goethe.
Apart from factology, Yalom builds very vivid personalities and you can easily see what these two men were like. Of course, there is much more fiction around Spinoza than around Rosenberg as not many traces are left from Spinoza.
Interesting fact takeaways from the book include:
Spanish Inquisition chased jews as fervently as the Nazis. They also believed the absurd idea that their blood is tainted and that causes all trouble in the world.
Spinoza is a big influencer of many modern thinkers. His views are very universal and hold ground even today. (Imagine we had no religions and all people reasoned freely and unbiased)
Spinoza calls God everything that surrounds us and namely the nature which resembles very much the ideas of Petar Dunov.
Spinoza’s museum was plundered by Nazis and all the books were taken away. They were restored after the war and could be seen today in the museum nowadays.
There is an interesting idea in the book why jews are so hated throughout history – the author makes the point that they as a community are very isolated from other people through their complex traditions, rituals and diet so that they almost never mixed with other people. Their exclusion makes them so feared and hated.
Netherlands has been one of the most free and open countries since medieval times. That’s why it is the only place in Europe that the jews find peace after the Spanish expulsion.
– Hitler was ‘found’ and influenced by a man called Dietrich Eckart.
Alfred Rosenberg was also a big influencer of Hitler in the early days although Hitler neglected Alfred in the later years. Alfred’s book The Myth of the 20-th Century was the second best seller book during Nazi times only after Hitler’s Mein Kampf, although it was considered hard to understand.
– A big influencer of hard-line nazis was Houston Stewart Chemberlain. He was son-in-law of Richard Wagner and issued a book called The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century that was a pseudo-scientific racial-history.
I definitely recommend the book.