Sunday Special – Warsaw, Poland

The thriving and growing capital city of Poland, Warsaw is truly a phoenix that has grown from the ashes. Its history of various takeovers and rulers goes back to the 1500s. More recently it has endured the onslaught of  WW II’s decimation of it’s Jewish population, the suffering of those in concentration camps, and the demolition of nearly 85% of it’s buildings. Then came the communist regime under the Soviet Union until 1989. Today, Warsaw has emerged with increased growth and livability earning itself the moniker of Phoenix City.  It is a vibrant and eclectic mix of commerce, culture, tourism, architecture, sports, and lifestyle. It continues to grow and expand in areas of media, research and development, information and technology, and much more. Not only that, it is a city with  some of the highest number of skyscrapers within the E.U. and it’s historic Old Town of Warsaw is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I have to say, this amazing city has just moved up on my bucket list!


Warsaw’s historic Old Town – Photo credit: Ben Bender, Warsaw Old Town, Warsaw, Poland – panoramio (75)CC BY-SA 3.0


Warsaw skyline at night – Photo credit: JakuberWarsaw at nightCC BY-SA 4.0





Sunday Special – Mykonos, Greece

Jutting into the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas, south of Albania, Macedonia (FYROM), Bulgaria, and the mainland of Greece are the striking Greek Isles. They number into the thousands though only 227 are inhabited. The Cycladean island of Mykonos is one of Greece’s most popular. Recognized as having a cosmopolitan vibe, it is renown for its widely popular nightlife and amazing beaches. High season  (July – August) brings in a bountiful number of tourists who enjoy the multitudinous clubs, restaurants, and shops. Low season (late October – April) is less crowded though some shops and attractions may be closed, weather is much cooler, and there are less frequent ferry rides. Shoulder season (May, June, September, & early October) is a blend of the other two seasons with less crowds and pleasant weather.

Although recognized as a “party” island, Mykonos does have more to offer. It has retained its Cycladic architecture of the past, something very prominent in Chóra (Mykonos Town) due to stringent regulations. I imagine the whitewashed buildings and narrow maze-like streets add a charm to Mykonos Town just as I found charm in Oia, Santorini.  The white windmills are a common sight on Mykonos, a throwback to early days when the strong winds of isle were used to power them.  Wander outside of the main town to a quaint town of Alefkántra, often referred to as Little Venice. This seaside village is lined with colourful houses and they boast an incredible sunset (a wonderful reason for me to consider visiting). As mentioned, beaches abound on Mykonos (Paradise Beach being one of the best known). And the winds make the island a great spot for water sport enthusiasts. Perhaps, if you’re lucky, you may spot the island’s adopted mascot too, Petros the Pelican (second generation).


Streets of Mykonos, Greece – Photo credit: Bernard GagnonHouses in MykonosCC BY-SA 4.0


Petros the Pelican, mascot of Mykonos – Photo is Public Domain


Sunday Special – Iceland

One of the hottest countries to visit these days is actually rather cool. Iceland is possibly one of the most popular European destinations right about now. It certainly is on my list. After seeing The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, starring Ben Stiller I was awed by the scenery the film showcased about this small northern European island nation. Then seeing photos several friends had posted on social media it has quickly moved up my bucket list.

The landscape has been described as rough, rugged and barren yet holds a beauty all its own. Mountainous volcanoes, sheets of glacial ice, lava fields and geothermal waters can all be found here. And it is said the warmest of all are Iceland’s people, which I suspect is true. Along with nature one can expect great food, amazing music (Of Monsters and Men hail from Iceland!), art,  and literature. When I go here I hope to see much of the country, perhaps even by car so that I can wander about at my leisure.  Here are some ideas.

  • Route 1 – Ring Road – The main highway that links the country together spans 1,330km / 830 miles. A road trip of epic scenery. Do prepare for any road trips and plan accordingly.
  • Northern Lights – Iceland’s location on the planet makes it a fitting place to see the night skies dance with colour. September to April are the best times for viewing.
  • Geothermal Waters – Naturally heated spring waters are plentiful. Many places have created pools and spas where you can enjoy the hot waters in the crisp air. The Blue Lagoon; Myvatn Natural Baths; and Laugarvatn Fontana are a few.
  • Festivals – Every season brings festivals and events to celebrate music, art, sport, and food.
  • Creatures Big and Small – Iceland may be a small country yet there is bountiful wildlife. Arctic Foxes, Icelandic Horses (don’t call them ponies!), varied and beautiful bird populations, and of course whales swimming in the North Atlantic waters.
  • Natural Beauty – a land of volcanoes, glaciers, waterfalls, caves, natural springs and geysers, and a rugged coastline I suspect this is how this island country wows most everyone.
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Iceland’s southern Ring Road – Photo via rheins, Southern Ring Road of Iceland – 2013.08 – panoramio (4)CC BY 3.0


Islenskir_hestar Icelandic horse

Icelandic Horses – Photo is Public Domain




Sunday Special – Estonia

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Cliffs at Saaremaa Island, Estonia – Photo credit: Margus6Varahommik ja Panga pankCC BY-SA 3.0

This small Baltic country of Estonia has history that goes back for centuries and centuries with a Finno-Ugric language ancestry.  Throughout these times the Estonian’s faced German, Danish, Swedish and Russian control. In 1918 they became an independent nation but were forced into the Soviet Union in 1940. 1989 they demanded independence and gained it officially in 1991, with much credit going to their peaceful Singing Revolution of the 1980s. In 2004 they joined the European Union and switched to the euro in 2011. Today it is a tourism hot spot with plenty to offer. 

  • Capital city of Tallinn boasts an outstanding Old Town which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Sight
  • Experience “White Nights” from May through July when the sun barely sets
  • Take in the Suur and Väike Taevaskoda (Small and Large Heaven’s Hall) along the Ahja River for some hiking and seeing some caves
  • The Lahemaa National Park on the northern coast is filled with beautiful landscape and perhaps you will see moose, foxes and other animals
  • The south’s Soomaa National Park showcases a primeval forest and quiet nature
  • Get your adrenaline flowing with activities such as repelling, rafting, ATV rentals, go-karting and even a precarious walk along the ledge of Tallinn’s TV Tower 
  • Visit any of Estonia’s plentiful islands, many just a quick ferry ride away
  • Take in all forms of popular music at any number of clubs offering rock, jazz, alternative, electronic and more. Music festivals are popular as well.
  • Admire the architecture of old in the many lighthouses, manor houses, churches, castles, and forts throughout the country

Katariina Passage in Tallinn’s Old Town – Photo credit: -jkb-Tallinn Katariina KäikCC BY-SA 3.0


Panorama of Tallinn’s walled Old Town – Photo credit: Ivar LeidusTallinn Toompea Upper Old Town 2013CC BY-SA 3.0 EE