The Island For Music Lovers
The tiny Greek island of Paxos, with its groves of olive trees, secluded beaches and coves, and pretty coastal villages, has become a favourite destination for music lovers during its annual jazz and classical music festivals.
In June, the Paxos Jazz Festival attracts talented and well-known musicians from far and wide to perform in open-air, idyllic locations with perfect summer weather. And from 2–13 September 2006 the renowned Paxos International Music Festival features classical music concerts in Loggos.
Since 1986, this Festival has established a tradition of excellence in performance, and has developed a loyal following of visitors and locals. As well as presenting major works from the chamber music repertoire, the Festival has commissioned new pieces especially for the Island. These included We Shall be Here, for a thousand and a thousand more years, a cantata tracing the history of Paxos from its mythological beginnings to the present day and Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf translated into Greek.
Now directed by the UK’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama, the 2006 Festival will present major works by composers who have anniversaries this year, including Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet; Schumann’s Piano Quintet; a Bartok String Quartet and a Shostakovich piano trio. And Guildhall students and teachers will give five special concerts. For the first time in Paxos, singers will present a repertoire of songs and arias.
The cosmopolitan capital of the Island, Gaios, bustles with life at festival time and its harbour is packed with yachts and cruisers. Cafe bars and restaurants line the waterfront, nestled between charming villas with their Venetian architecture, and the island's nightlife includes late-night music bars overlooking the harbour.
At the waterfront terrace of Bar Taxidi, in picture-postcard Loggos, you might even find Spiros, the owner, making traditional music. Some of the best accommodation on Paxos is to be found in the lovely little fishing harbour of Loggos but, be warned, with limited accommodation Paxos villas are in high demand at the time of the music festival so be sure to make your booking way in advance.
This is an exciting sunshine destination where you will enjoy a warm welcome on the largest of the Greek islands. The island is full of myth and legend so feel free to visit the ancient city of Knossos where, according to legend, Theses from Athens killed the Minotaur in the maze-like labyrinth. There are a plenty of modern-day distractions with its lively selection of holiday resorts, superb beaches and traditional entertainment to enjoy.
Aghios Nikolaos Holidays
The resort of Aghios Nikolaos has become one of the more popular resorts on the island of Crete. This busy town boasts a range of tourist amenities, though has retained a great deal of local charm, which appeals its visitors. The Town Square and a pretty harbour provide plenty of opportunities for al fresco dining in a picturesque setting, many of the restaurants look over the waters' edge. The bars and discos offer a good choice of evening entertainment, while restaurants and tavernas provide a variety of dining choices. Here the hotels tends to have small course sandy beaches and coves.
Holidays in Elounda
Elounda is one of Crete's hidden gems and it is situated just 12km north of Aghios Nikolaos. Nestled in its own secluded bay area to the edge of the beautiful, clear turquoise waters of this part of the Mediterranean. This small town has a typical Cretan atmosphere with its bouzouki club and a few local tavernas. It also has most of the amenities one would expect from a beach resort; the course sandy beach offers water sports, and there are shops, restaurants and local style bars. There is also the possibility of taking a short excursion by boat from Elounda to the neighbouring Fortress island of Spinalonga.
Hersonissos is a busy and cosmopolitan resort, which is a particular favourite with couples and young people. With one promenade dotted with shops, bars, discos, open-air restaurants and other attractions along the length of the resort, ideal for fun-filled days and lively nights, and beautiful, shingle beaches and soft sand or rocky coves, for daytime relaxation, Hersonissos offers something for everyone. The hotels enjoy a tranquil location, running alongside the waters' edge at the quieter end of town, and are just over 5 minutes walk from the resort centre. There is a new 18-hole Championship standard golf course, just 6.5 kms away from Hersonissos.
Danube: Petrovaradin Fortress
The Petrovaradin Fortress is sitting on a hill on the Danube river in Novi Sad (Нови Сад). Recent discoveries have shown that a continuous settlement has existed at this site for the last 15,000 to 20,000 years. After some Paleolithic settlers and some first fortification in the Bronze age, the Romans built a fortress (Cusum) here which has existed until the Middle Age.
Since 1235, the site has been alternatively occupied by Hungarian, Turkish and Austrian forces and a new fortress was built on top of the remains of the Roman Cusum. The base of the current fortress was laid in 1692 by the Austrians after the previous one was destroyed in 1687 during the war against Turkey. The new fortress has not only survived several more wars, but also the time after World War I when many other nearby fortresses were razed, and is still intact today. There's also a system of 16km of tunnels under the fortress, originally built as countermine system in the 18th century.
Nowadays, the EXIT music festival is held in the fortress every year in July.
Visit Dracula's Castle in Bran
Transylvania might be known amongst travellers as the place where Dracula comes from, in reality it is a very large part of central and northern Romania. It includes medieval castles and towns, forests and even snowy peaks in the Transylvanian Alps in the north.
The Transylvanian villages with their fortified churches in southern Transylvania are on the Unesco World Heritage list, while cities like Cluj-Napoca, Brasov, Sibiu, Sighisoara and Timisoara form the biggest cities, some of which have excellent preserved historical centres (see Sighisoara above). One way to get around this huge piece of land is to do the Transylvania Triangle Train Tour, a fantastic journey along many of the natural and cultural highlights in this region.
Northern Moldavia Churches
The churches from Northern Moldavia (region called Bucovina – in German Buchenland meaning the Beech Country) are among the best-known tourist attractions in Romania and they definitely deserve their fame. Whether you are a believer or not, there are few other places where one can collect their thoughts, meditate and relax away from the maddening world without going to the middle of nowhere.
All the churches have a long history, many of them being built by great rulers of Moldavia, which was an independent state at the time, struggling to keep its autonomy from the Ottoman Empire. Religion was highly important at the time, churches usually being built to celebrate a won fight or to serve as a burial place for the ruling family.
Most churches are 500-years old or even more, and one of their most amazing features is their exterior paintings, which are just as amazing today. As a reward for these unique religious edifices the churches received the prize called Pomme d’Or ( the Golden Apple) from FIJET, later becoming part of the UNESCO World Heritage List. The apple is now being kept at Moldovita.
Enjoy Bosnia and Herzegovina
Old Bridge (Stari Most) is the key attraction in Mostar. Built in 1566 while the area was under Ottoman rule, Stari Most was considered a symbol of the friendship between the diverse nations and ethnicities inhabiting the area. Understood in this context, it's not hard to see why its restoration after the Bosnian War was considered an important task. The bridge that is there today was built according to the original design. Mostar and its bridge are placed on the Unesco World Heritage List.
Mehmed Paša Sokolović Bridge
Mehmed Paša Sokolović Bridge is a historic bridge in Višegrad that crosses the Drina River in the eastern part of the country. The bridge was built by the Ottoman court in 1577 by the architect Sinan. It is considered one of the highest examples of Ottoman architecture and civil engineering. The bridge is 179.5 m long with 11 arches that are 11 m to 15 m each. The bridge was damaged during both World Wars but was quickly restored afterwards. Today the bridge is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Bjelašnica Mountain is in the central part of the country and is directly southwest of Sarajevo. During the summer this mountain is a popular place to go hiking while in the winter it is a popular downhill skiing mountain. The Bjelašnica Ski Area has several nice runs and a large area above the tree line, which is ideal for fans of bald peak skiing. The mountain is 2067 m (6782 ft) high and is a day trip from Sarajevo. There is a accommodation on the mountain for people thinking of spending the night.
UNESCO: Albania Sights
Butrint is one of the cultural highlights of Albania and on the UNESCO World Heritage List. It is located in the south of the country and can be visited from Sarandë as a day trip. It used to be a city throughout Greek, Roman, bishopric and Byzantine periods and was abandoned during the Middle Ages perhaps due to the marsh surrounding and subsequently malaria epidemic. It had been inhabited since prehistoric times. The present archaeological site is a repository of ruins representing each period in the city’s development. Butrint can even be visited as a day trip from the Greek Island of Corfu, meaning extra crowds during the summer months.
Another UNESCO site, the Museum-City of Gjirokästerin is located the Drinos River valley in southern Albania. It is a fine, but rare example of a well-preserved Ottoman town, built by farmers of large estate. The 13th-century citadel is the main feature in the town with its typical tower houses, which have a tall basement, a first floor for use in the cold season, and a second floor for the warm season. The castle has an exhibit of Enver Hoxha's army's cannons and other features include the Ethnographic Museum, the Old Bazaar and the nearby old city of Antigonea.
Durrës is one of the oldest cities in Albania and is the major port city of the country. The city has been flooded three times and the current one is built on top of the previous two. There are some fantastic sites as well including the largest amphitheater in the Balkans. Although there are some beaches and new hotels are being built all the time, hoping to see some tourists mainly from Italy, it is not a dream destination to spend your holiday. That said, it is a nice and convenient place to travel on your way from Italy to the Balkan region and vice versa. Boats leave for Bari daily.
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Greeks pride themselves for their "philoxenia," or hospitability. Even in antiquity, many of them referred to Zeus as Xenios Zeus—the God in charge of protecting travelers. Today, Greek philoxenia is alive and well in the capitol city, whether displayed in the kindness of strangers you ask for directions or in the thoroughness of your hotel receptionist's care. With 18% of the small country's GDP derived from tourism, philoxenia isn't optional.
The city is full of hotels, many of which were built in Greek tourism's heyday in the 1960s and 1970s. In the years prior to the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, financial incentives were provided to hoteliers to upgrade and renovate their facilities, to the effect that many hotels—such as the Athens Hilton
- completely renovated themselves inside and out as they increased their range of services.
But if prices have increased since then, all kinds of accommodation are happily available at all price levels. In Athens you can find everything from boutique hotels dreamed up by prestigious designers and decorated by well-known artists to no-fuss youth hostels that for decades have served the backpacking crowds on their way to Mykonos
. Athens's budget hotels
once little better than dorms - now usually have air-conditioning and television, along with prettier public spaces. In the post-Olympics years, there was a notable increase in the number of good-quality, middle-rank family hotels
. At the same time, the city's classic luxury hotels
, such as the Grande Bretagne Hotel
have introduced modern perks like up-to-date spa therapies.
The most convenient hotels for travelers are in the heart of the city center. Some of the older hotels in Plaka
and near Omonia Square
are comfortable and clean, their charm inherent in their age. But along with charm may come leaking plumbing, sagging mattresses, and other lapses in the details—take a good look at the room before you register. The thick stone walls of neoclassic buildings keep them cool in summer, but few of Athens budget hotels
have central heating, and it can be devilishly cold in winter.
Remember it is best to book in advance, especially if you are traveling during peak summer months. Opt for hotels in the city center if you are planning to visit all Athens major sights
on a limited time schedule. As Athens's center is relatively small, many of these are in walking distance from the major sites.
Best of the Greek Islands
Beaches, sure. But also Venetian castles, wild goats, carnivals and sweet muscat. With more than 2,000 islands, ranging from tiny atolls to the veritable continent that is Crete, maritime Greece is unmatched for sheer variety. Beaches, history, walking, cycling, water sports, festivals, food ecology: chances are if you want it, they’ve got it. Here are just a few of the incomparable offerings Greece’s islands hold.
Best for beaches - Crete, Lipsi, Kefallonia, Skiathos, Mykonos
Almost every Greek isle has great beaches, but few come with a Venetian castle, like laid-back Frangokastello Beach in southern Crete
. For lapping turquoise waters, try Platys Gialos and Kambos on quiet Lipsi, and the stunning cove at Myrtos Beach in Kefallonia
. To see and be seen, bowl up to one of Skiathos‘ 65 beaches, join the mainstream masses at 1200m-long Koukounaries Beach or bronze up on nudist-friendly Banana and Little Banana Beach, popular with the gay and lesbian set. Even more full-on are the legendary Paradise and Super Paradise beaches on decadent Mykonos
Best for history - Rhodes, Delos, Corfu, Patmos
Gape at Rhodes
‘ magnificent, walled old town, where the Knights of St John ruled from 1309-1523, and explore their quarter before visiting the 14th-century Palace of the Grand Masters. Tiny Delos, near Mykonos, was once dedicated to Apollo; see ruins of shrines to the gods and explore mosaic-rich ancient dwellings. Kick back in Corfu
’s old town, with its Venetian, French and British architecture. On ethereal Patmos
, visit the Monastery of St. John the Theologian, and see the grotto where the saint wrote the Book of Revelations.
Best for walking - Crete, Naxos, Alonnisos, Skopelos
The varied terrain on Greece’s biggest island, Crete
, ranges from gentle plateaus dotted with windmills to canyons and mountains. Hiking
the Samaria Gorge, Europe’s longest at 16km, brings you through the homeland of Crete’s famed wild goat, the kri kri. The Zakros-Kato Zakros (a former Minoan palace site) amble in eastern Crete
is more relaxed. Cool relief awaits on the forested ‘river walk’ at southern Plakias
(inquire at the excellent Youth Hostel Plakias). The Greek Mountaineering Club of Hania informs about trekking opportunities and conditions, while Hania’s Alpine Travel organises walking and trekking tours.
boasts numerous walks along the old paths connecting the villages of the central plain; these traverse ancient temples, Hellenistic towers and Byzantine churches. For guided walks contact Flisvos Sport Club. The Sporadic isles of Alonnisos and Skopelos
, full of forests, orchards and wildflowers, offer more excellent walks; contact the Alonnisos Walking Club and Skopelos Walks.
Best for cycling - Evia, Kos, Thasos
The meandering country roads of Evia
make for blissfully stress-free cycling. Another favourite is well-equipped Kos
, bursting with bike-rental places. Excellent forested trails (and a popular international race) bring mountain biking aficionados to Thasos
Best for diving and snorkelling - Karpathos, Milos, Paros, Kastellorizo
For organised dives in sea caves full of colourful aquatic life, check out Karpathos Diving School on Karpathos. Milos has phenomenal diving; Diving Center Milos
brings you face-to-face with deep-sea fish, dolphins and even monk seals. Snorkelling
is also great here, and on Paros
and remote Kastellorizo.
Best for responsible travel - Zakynthos, Chios, Crete
Volunteer to protect endangered wildlife like sea turtles
with the Earth, Sea & Sky Center and Sea Turtle Protection Society. Get your hands dirty while tending endemic mastic trees, and explore Chios
‘ other eco-tourism opportunities with Masticulture in Mesta. Finally, enjoy guilt-free eating and sleeping in Crete
’s secluded mountains at Milia
Traditional Settlement, powered by solar energy and living off its organic farm and good vibrations.
Best for food and drink - Lesvos, Samos, Corfu, Folegandros, Crete
is renowned for its olive oil and its ouzos (it produces some 70 percent of all Greek ouzos
). The national aperitif is served with mixed mezedhes (appetizers) at traditional ouzeries (ouzo restaurants), which blend the island’s old Turkish influences with Greek seafood specialities. Lesvos produces fine wine, as does Samos
, famed for its sweet muscat dessert wine.
Like other Ionian islands
, Corfu was never Ottomanised, and its cuisine remains Italian-flavoured. Folegrandos‘ Cycladic
specialities include matsata (pasta with rabbit/chicken in red sauce), astakomakaronada (lobster with spaghetti) and liokafto (sun-dried fish). Crete
is famous for its olive oil and specialties like dakos (rusks topped with tomato, olive oil
and feta cheese
) and myzithra (sweet cheese, used in kalitsounia pastries). Horta (wild greens) provide seasoning for fish or roast lamb.
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UK: London is cool city to live and a true capital of the world!
FRANCE: Paris - appreciate the City of Light as the locals do!
ITALY: All roads lead to Rome - The Eternal City
GREECE: Athens is a large, vibrant city with an ancient history
SPAIN: Madrid has has an infectious appetite for art and music
NETHERLANDS: Amsterdam is one of the coolest cities in Europe
RUSSIA: Moscow is the capital of the world's biggest country
CROATIA: Zagreb is far more than an Old World City
GREECE: Corfu is mixture of natural beauties and ancient sites
SERBIA: Belgrade is the perfect South Eastern Europe Experience
ROMANIA: In Bucharest you won’t get bored!
SLOVENIA: Ljubljana is quickly becoming a popular destination
POLAND: Warsaw is a modern metropolis charged with history
ALBANIA: Tirana is the cheapest capital city in Europe
GREECE: Thessaloniki is the jewel of the north
CYPRUS: Nicosia is the capital of Cyprus and its largest city
TURKEY: Istanbul invites you to the enjoyable world of shopping
BULGARIA: Sofia is one of the great cities of Europe.
MONTENEGRO: Podgorica is the centre of cultural activity!
HUNGARY: Budapest is the business center and capital of Hungary
GREECE: Patras is one of Greece's most important seaports
ROMANIA: Iaşi is the city of your academic beginnings
ROMANIA:You will be impressed by Timisoara's historical buildings
GREECE: Rhodes is a unique destination for your summer holidays.
ROMANIA: Cluj-Napoca was always a tourist attraction
ROMANIA: Constanţa, the biggest city of the south-east regions
ROMANIA: Braşov will offer you a double experience
ROMANIA: Sibiu - unique natural and historical heritage
Bucharest hotels and accommodation
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Thessaloniki Travel Guide
At the crossroads of East and West, where North blends into South, Thessaloniki (accent on the "ni") has seen the rise and fall of many civilizations: Macedonian, Hellenic, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, and that of the Jews and the modern Greeks. Each of its successive conquerors has plundered, razed, and buried much of what went before. In 1917 a great fire destroyed much of what was left, but the colorful past can still be seen and sensed. The vibrant city with close to 1.5 million inhabitants today—also known as Thessalonike, Saloniki, Salonika, or Salonica—has a spacious, orderly layout that is partly a result of French architect Ernest Hébrard, who rebuilt the city after the fire.
has suburbanized in the last two decades, sprawling to the east and west, the old part of the city is fairly centralized and easy to get used to. Whether you're in Ano Polis (Upper City) or along the bay, short walks here are well rewarded; you may come across parks, squares, old neighborhoods with narrow alleyways and gardens, courtyards draped with laundry, neoclassic mansions, and some of the more than 50 churches and 40 monasteries. Thessaloniki's early Christian and Byzantine monuments, with their distinctive architecture and magnificent mosaics, are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The ever-changing nature of the city continues and neighborhoods like Ladadika, a former warehouse district (which got its name from the olives and olive oil or ladi stored here), have been recycled into pedestrian zones of restaurants and clubs. The neighborhood is filled with young and old, strolling by fountains, snapping fingers to the music in the air, and savoring mezedes (appetizers) and microbrewery beers at tables spilling onto the stone squares.
The appeal of Thessaloniki lies in part in its warmth, accessibility, and languid pace. The afternoon mesimeri, or siesta, is still sacrosanct (don't call people between 3 and 5 PM). Take your time exploring in-town archaeological sites and Byzantine treasures, making sure to stop for café-style people-watching. The two walks suggest routes for exploring highlights. It's best, however, to simply to wander through the streets responding to whatever you encounter. It is hard to get lost, since the entire city slopes downhill to the bay, where you can always align yourself with the White Tower and the city skyline.