Sunday Special – Sardinia, Italy


Note: I apologize for note posting the last couple of weeks. I’ve had some personal issues to deal with. Though I will continue on now.

Time for island life! Let’s head to the Mediterranean Sea to Sardinia. This autonomous island of Italy is the second largest island in the Med. The island has numerous languages spoken there and all of them share equal recognition.  The capital city is Cagliari which is also the largest city.  The main draws of this destination are the lily-white beaches offset by the bluest waters. Along with beach life comes water sports along the lines of windsurfing, boating, surfing, scuba diving – to name a few. Although these are the biggest tourist draws there is some more to this warm and balmy island.

Heading into the interior of the island will take you away from the tourist crowds to where some locals reside. The topography is rocky and hilly with some of the oldest rocks in Europe. Much of them are part of the Gennargentu Range. There is even a ski resort in the area and Gennargentu National Park.  The interior also is home to a number of ancient megalithic structures dating back to the Nuragic Civilization of the Bronze and Iron Ages. Appearing to be buildings, these Nuraghes are listed with the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It would seem you have a bit of variety on this Mediterranean island. Perhaps I’ll have to make a trip out there one day soon.

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The clear and blue waters of La Pelosa Beach, Sardinia – Photo credit: goldpicasa, Stintino, La Pelosa beach – panoramio (1)CC BY 3.0

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One of Sardinia’s lush beaches – Photo credit: trevis_lu (Luca Giudicatti), Spiaggia rosa, isola di budelli, sardegnaCC BY-SA 2.0

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An ancient Nuraghe found on Sardinia, Italy – Photo credit: WikibiroGonnesa-Seruci02CC BY-SA 3.0

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Sunday Special – Meteora Monasteries, Greece


On the mainland of Greece in the Plain of Thessaly are unique rock pillars that rise up from the ground. Composed of a blend of conglomerate and sandstone they were formed millions of years ago by the earth’s movements and eventual wear resulting in astonishing vertical pillars reaching for the heavens. This area is known as Meteora which means “suspended in the air”. Perhaps that is what the builders of the Eastern Orthodox monasteries were aiming for, to be closer to the heavens along with a place of quiet and isolation. The monks that originally dwelt here were master rock climbers, scaling the daunting cliff sides to make their way to the buildings they erected. Over time they used pulley and ladder systems to make their way up the pillars and to the the neighbouring monasteries. When the Turks invaded (or danger was imminent) the ladders and ropes were reigned in and helped to ensure the survival of those residing in the 24 complexes of the time. Today only six remain and are still in use. In 1988 they were named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Today visitors are welcome to explore the monasteries and neighbouring town of Kalambaka. Along with the area’s history it also draws people in with its natural beauty and hiking, mountain biking, and rock climbing options. 

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Meteora, Greece – Photo credit: LucT, Stefanos Monastery, Meteora – panoramioCC BY-SA 3.0

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Meteora Monasteries, Greece – Photo credit: Thanos KoliogiorgosMeteora monastery 2CC BY-SA 4.0

 

Sunday Special – Troödos Region, Cyprus


 

I like islands. In fact, my “happy place” is an island (that would be Ireland). I’d like to visit many an island in this world simply because it is an island. One of those is the Mediterranean isle of Cyprus. Today we will take a look at its  Troödos Mountain Region which has some interesting things to offer.  

This mountainous area of Cyprus is located almost smack in the middle of the island with the mountains covering most of the western portion. The tallest peak is known as Mount Olympus (not to be confused with the one in Greece) or Chionistra,  locally.  It is home to several ski slopes and resorts that operate January through to April. During the summer months take advantage of the numerous hiking trails and nature walks. Keep an eye out for some of the waterfalls such as Millomeris Falls and Caledonia Falls.  Although there are resorts and hotels in the villages in this area you can get closer to nature by camping in the designated areas in Troödos National Forest Park.  The plant life in the area is impressive, including a number of endemic Cypriot varieties.  Let’s not forget about the animals as well. Several protected species of birds may be spotted so bring your camera. 

For history enthusiasts and the reason I chose to research the Troödos region today is for the UNESCO World Heritage Troödos Region Painted Churches. I am fascinated by religious buildings despite not being religious myself. Perhaps due to the combination of art and architecture, two things that I appreciate. And that budding photographer in me likes to photograph them.  Ten Byzantine monasteries and churches make up this world heritage site. The artwork within the buildings are specific to Cyprus and unique to this particular region of the island. 

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Kykkos Monastery (a painted church), Cyprus – Photo credit: Gerhard HauboldKykkos 01 CCC BY-SA 3.0

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Troödos  Mountains, Cyprus – Photo credit: Tech broTroodos MountainsCC BY-SA 3.0

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Millomeris Waterfall, Troödos Mountains in Cyprus – Photo credit: DickelbersMillomeri waterval in troodosgebergteCC BY-SA 3.0

 

Sunday Special – Siem Reap, Cambodia


If there was ever a town built around one tourist attraction it would be…Orlando, Florida. Because Disney World is huge. Things are built around it and cater to it. That is what I hear. And with that, what I say next may be considered sacrilege by many. Here goes:  I have no desire to visit Disney World. None whatsoever! There I said it (whew! that wasn’t so painful).  BUT…what does this have to do with today’s Sunday Special? Well Siem Reap in Cambodia is similar to Orlando in that it has one main draw – the grand Angkor Wat (Angkor Archaeological Site) And that IS a place I want to visit. Stretching out 400 square km / 155 sq miles it encompasses temples, old remains, and forested areas. I understand it takes several days to meander through it. I’m getting excited just knowing I’ll see it in the future! But I know nothing else of what there is to see and do in Siem Reap. Kinda like Orlando.

So let’s find out what else this northwestern Cambodian city has to offer.

  • Food: One of my favourite topics. Food tours and bountiful restaurants are plentiful. There are even some places where the adventurous foodies can taste  bugs, such as deep fried tarantulas.
  • Get Around: Rent a bicycle, moped, or e-bike (electric scooter) to see the area at your own pace. Alternately,  you can also rent tuk-tuks to get you from one place to another.
  • Markets: Siem Reap has a healthy selection of markets to peruse. Some of the popular ones are the Old Market, Angkor Night Market, and Central Market. If you would like to learn about buying ethical handicrafts, check out Angkor Handicraft Association.
  • Floating Villages: There are a few floating villages in the area that you can visit. Do your research as some are more authentic than others from what I have read online.
  • Angkor National Museum: Visit this museum to learn not only about the temples in the area but the history of the Khmer Empire and the relics and artifacts of Angkor.
  • Pub Street: A good place for restaurants and eateries during the day and the go-to place for pubs, street entertainment and bars at night. In fact after 5:00pm it is closed off to motorized vehicles. 
  • Cooking Classes: You’ve tried some of the food, why not learn how to recreate it at home. There are several cooking classes you can join up for in the area
  • Other Temples: Although Angkor Wat is the largest temple in Siem Reap it is by not means the only. There are plenty of others to see. Mainly Buddhist temples but there are a few Hindu ones as well.

Well, I am fairly certain I will enjoy Siem Reap once I make my way there in the future. I hope you do to should you decide to visit.

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Puok Market in Siem Reap, Cambodia – Photo credit: FREDPuok.MarketCC BY-SA 3.0

 

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Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia – Photo credit: Ziegler175ICAngkorWatH01CC BY-SA 3.0