7 hours in Cottbus

For unidentified reasons, I always wanted to visit Cottbus. And I cannot explain in a reasonable way what was the reason of this attraction. Maybe I thought more than once at the Festival of the East European Cinema, maybe it was related somehow to my previous lectures about the Sorbs. Today, avoiding the craziness of the 1st of May in Berlin I turned my dream into reality. Oh, how beautiful would it be if all my dreams will be only 2 hours away from my home!

The first impression

is also the last…Once situated in the former DDR, Cottbus is a small town, that you can’t live without seeing it and who does not ask you to return. Nothing outstanding, nothing extraordinary. A lot of green areas and parks with water, some areas with old communist style blocks, a nice campus with a spectacular library.

It took me a while to get into the ambiance of the place and the first 30 minutes I did not take any picture, preferring to walk quietly, trying to see the main directions and feel the streets. You can hardly get lost in Cottbus, as there are many arrows and maps every hundreds of meters. Most indications are in German and I missed to see more explanations about the places I was passing by. 


On May 1st the streets were quiet and the distance between buses and trams was of 20-30 minutes. Some restaurants were open – including an Indian-Italian restaurant -, but most magazines and food parlours were closed. There are a lot of places to shop, including in a Galerie Kaufhof. People look simple, with colourful hair spots and with many children and retired people holding hands. Did not see any drunkards and the 2 dangerously-looking punks that went from Berlin were extremely kind and chatted during the train trip with 2 respectable ladies in their 60s. The only celebrating the International Labour Day were 4-5 innocent people that set up a table with some leftist publications. 

For 1 euro, I went up in the Spremberg Tour and had a big view over the city: a mixture of old and new and many workshops in different finalization stages. From the central station, you either dare to go by foot or take a bus that will lead you in the centre. The price of one way ticket is 1.40 Euro. For 4 tickets, the price is 5 Euro. The trip from Berlin is 19 Euro and if you consider the cheap food – with 10 Euro you can eat and drink enough for an energy refuel, 50-60 Euro for one person is the correct price for an adventure in Cottbus.

The city celebrates this year 110 years since the introduction of electricity and the tram into the daily life. 

If interested to spend more than one day here – as many of the people invited to participate to various business meetings and fairs – during communism, Cottbus was an industrial city – there are hotels for all budgets and tastes: from the expensive Radisson hotel situated just on the other side of the Central Station, to Altstadt Hotel, Ostrow or Sorat. I spotted some rooms to rent available in private houses as well. 

What I liked: the architecture


The Staatstheater and its crowded Art nouveau

One of the most mentioned tourist objectives in Cottbus is the ‘Art nouveau’ Staatstheater. At the first sight, it looks impressive, with all the yellowish putti and the chariot and the ‘German art’ perspective. But I found it too charged and not necessarily telling a coherent story. I wish I could be able to have a look inside, but it was no one around. 


A welcoming monster

The architecture of the houses is what I really appreciated in Cottbus. Interesting geometries and colourful doors with suggestive statues spread all over the town. Classical lines with minimal decorations but with unique exterior outlook. It looked as each house was differing of the other. There are several styles that I’ve seen while traversing the city: from the Socialist Realism to the Art Nouveau and classicism, to some Modern lines and Constructivism. I loved to be around the Pushkinpromenade, where many of the houses are either in process or reconstruction or freshly painted and rebuilt. 


Interesting combination of wood and stone and decorations

Even you feel that you are in the countryside, Cottbus enjoys quite a busy cultural life. There is the Staatstheater, and a theatre for children, Piccolo Theater, and concerts taking place regularly. Joe Cooker, for instance, is expected on the 30rd of August on Spreeauenpark.

In the middle of the animals

After having enough of the city, the main recommendation is to go to the Branitzer Castle and Park. As I did not have the full day at my disposal and I needed to be back home till 8pm, I decided that I rather skip the castle and stop instead to the Zoo. And it was an inspired decision, as the Tierpark, an open air park where the animals looks better than in the classical cages, is a very pleasant experience. Full of children of all ages, their parents and dog owners, it was quite a busy time for a visit, but the other visitors were decent enough to give you space and time to get into the mood of the natural life. Besides zebras and monkeys there are a lot of interesting animals that I confess I saw for the first time: the Central American tapir, saddle billed storck, laughing kookabura. The snow owl was gorgeous, but the penguins were looking a bit angry and hungry and unhappy. The children are not only invited to play in some clean playgrounds, but also to discover what the animals are eating and to see how is the life in a farm, in a special area for domestic animals. Unfortunately, most of the explanations of the animals are only in German. 

I only spent one hour there, but most probably you can schedule a whole afternoon for having enough time to observe the animals and enjoy the walk in the wood. 

Overall: Cottbus was not that bad and not too boring either. If you don’t have anything else to do and you are looking for some local flavours, don’t think twice and take the train from Berlin. Otherwise, check your map and find out something trendy, fashionable and bursting with life and energy, even on a quiet day of May 1st. 







Golf in Fiji

I am becoming obsessed about Fiji lately, especially after I entered a competition on Facebook recently and tried to read more about this tropical corner (I avoided to write ‘paradise’ as I have not been yet in person to bring a clear testimony for or against this description). The idea of a gorgeous weather all round the year (the lowest temperature during the winter is around 19 Celsius) is very tempting for me, especially after the long winter that ended up less than one month ago. 

Fiji has around 300 volcanic islands – maybe the earthquakes are not the natural activity that I am in love with – a rich traditional culture and food specialities that mixes the local dishes with Indian, Korean, European to the Australian and New Zealand influences. 

I will not write right now about the wonders of nature or the wide range of possibilities for accommodation, from luxury five-star hotels to budget hotels (most likely my option, as from my home country the costs of transportation are over 2,000 euro). I will talk about golf now, a sport that I was encouraged to practice but as in the case of almost all the sports I wanted to discover I concluded that I am too clumsy to waste my time trying to understand it. In Japan, almost every small village has in the immediate vicinity a nice golf area, besides the usual sauna.

The good news for people like me is that I’ve heard that in the golf resorts of Fiji there are enough experienced coordinators that are ready to teach even the clumsiest persons in the world. 

Where to golf

One of the most highlighted golf course is Natadola Bay Championship, situated alongside Fiji’s six-star resort, the Intercontinental Fiji Golf and Spa Report. Denarau Golf and Racquet Club is considered unique in elegance among the South Pacific golf resorts: it has two practice putting greens, with special lessons offered for adults and juniors. Only 10 minutes away from the airport is the Nadi Airport Golf Club, with 18 holes and a view to both the ocean and the mountains. Another challenging playground for the professional and experienced players is the Pearl Championship Fiji Golf Course, that has 66 bunkers and multiple water hazards on 12 of the 18 holes.

Some of the most recommended nine-hole golf clubs are: Ba Golf Course (North East of Viti Levu), Novotel Hotel Nadi Executive Golf Course, Shangi-La The Fijian Resort Executive Golf Course or Vatukoula Golf Course.

The guests of Laucala Island Resort can have their own private lessons in a gorgeous location, close to a mountain and with a natural vegetation around. Image

Source: http://www.fijihomesforsale.com

Cultural warnings

If you visit Fiji, there are a couple of local customs that the tourist should be aware of. For instance, dressing modestly when visiting villages is a sign of respect. However, when you visit a village, be sure that you do not wear a hat, as it is considered an insult to the village chef. Be also careful to do not touch someone’s head as it is considered an insult. 

In case that you are invited in someone’s house, to dot wear shoes.

When you visit a village, don’t forget to bring with you a special gift for the head of the village. People are welcoming and curious and can’t wait to shake hands with you and ask you a couple of very important questions, including where you are from, whether marries and how many children do you have. 

It looks as a challenging adventure for me. Let’s hope will win at travel competition soon!



A little taste of Belize

Situated on the Eastern Coast of Central America, Belize was extremely in fashion when people were waiting the end of the world while misreading the Mayan calendar. A former British colony, it has not only several dozen of islands – among them the famous Isla Bonita – and coral reefs included on the list of UNESCO’s heritage, but also museums, a good Caribbean food and a surprising list of activities for every age.

In the administrative capital of Belize City the visitors will be invited to discover the colonial past but also make a tour of the bars and restaurants and a shopping tour. Besides the usual fashion brands, there are many small shops selling traditional handmade objects and clothing objects. For more cultural activities, visit Dangrica where the Garifuna culture is strongly represented.

The Mayan temples are spread all over the islands, some of them are still hidden and wait for the archaeologists to discover, including in Caracol, an important capital city of the Mayan culture. If you love chocolate, you may try a big bit of the products prepared following the traditional Mayan recipe. The food is healthy and the life on the islands is not only easy, but also close to the nature. For those who are not interested in spending their stay in a classical hotel, there it is possible to find out home stay programs that will open the window to the heart of the local people. 

A journey to Belize suits the high-end and middle class tourists, including family with children and honeymooners. You may find secluded beaches, a natural landscape that invites to adventures – scuba diving for beginners and experiences divers as for instance Chasbo’s Corner or the South Water Caye (where you can see sharks and turtles), caves – the most extensive caves in Central America are in Belize, reef atolls – Belize’s barrier reef is the longest in the world, 185 miles, and even helicopter adventures and transfers

The most important thing after you read this is not to believe me but to try to check carefully my words. 


Source: www. lonelyplanet.com