Ilana visited Rostock

With a Quer-durchs-Land Ticket in the pocket and a good book to fill the three hours of travel with the regional train, we arrived in Rostock. The journey went smoothly, with a nice employee of the Deutsche Bahn that helped us to catch our connection in time and some noisy ladies that had their glass of champagne at 11 o’clock in the morning and felt the need to generously share different experiences about washing jackets with the rest of the world.

Out of the window we saw the traces of the last floods, but also lavender and poppy fields. On our way back, we discovered a depressing side of the landscape, with many empty and half-destroyed houses during the first 15 minutes of the train trip. Hundreds of teenagers were heading to a festival in Strelitz and at least of a couple of stations we were able to observe the ‘new generations’ smoking and drinking beer and laying on the floors, despite of the big number of free ‘normal’ seats.

A spectacular architecture and a terrible city tour

One of the most unexpected things about Rostock is the eclectic architecture: a combination between Art-Deco/Baroque and some classic touches. The buildings from the old city are unique, newly built and looking clean and elegant. Even the Mc Donald’s is hosted in a building with rubenesques small statues at the entrance. In the former communist corner the classical and ugly block houses were also repainted and got a new make-up that gives them a better and younger look.

Another visual catch of the city is the big number of statues and fountains – sometimes in togetherness – that gives to the city a certain artsy touch. We did not find too many galleries or art museums or exhibitions though.

As an old Hansa town, Rostock has a museum dedicated to the local history of shipping, but also the oldest university from the Baltic area, serving students from 1419. We arrived during the vacation, but the young ambiance was overall present all over the streets. We also noticed the big number of families with one or more children, hence the big parks situated in different parts of the town. There it is also a dark history of the city during communism, as here was situated one of the regional centers of the secret police – Stasi – that can be visited nowadays for free. As I already saw a couple of Stasi exhibitions and places in Berlin, I decided that I rather skip this one.

Challenged by what we saw and did not expect after serious documentation, we booked a tour of 50 minutes at the Tourist Information Center – 10 Euro/adult, that can be paid by card. The minibus with 8 seats operates every hour from 10am to 5pm and with the danger of a serious rain ahead, we thought that it is the best way to do something interesting and learn more about the city. Unfortunately, the guide was extremely unprofessional, asking a lot of personal questions and focusing on his failed marriages instead of giving us the decent amount of information in exchange of our hard-worked 10 Euro.

Get some shopping bags

Trying to change our mood after the bad investment, we did some window shopping for one hour. At the shopping centers or in the shops in the old town, the sales season just began and we hardly resisted the temptation to get something back to Berlin. If not in the mood for shopping, there are plenty of restaurants and cafes, many in the port area, but with higher prices, especially for the local fish meals.

After the tour ended, we returned to the port and had a small walk for 30 minutes. It was a quiet afternoon, without too many people around, but with many boats swinging in the rhythm of the wind. It was still sun, but the army of black clouds was gathering, but we were not still sure that we want to take the first train back home. The connection to Berlin – direct or with one change, with the Regional Express – takes place every two hours, but missing suddenly the sea, we decided that we should go further, to Warnemünde, at least for a couple of hours.

Why not, actually? Our tickets allowed the transportation with the local S-Bahn without additional costs and the beach of the Baltic Sea was only 15 minutes away.

To be continued.

Visit the Rostock Pinterest board for more pictures

We spotted a creative graffiti and we shared in YouTube


A house looking as a castle on the way to the old center


In the old market – Alter Markt – you can buy fresh fruits and vegetables. There is also situated the Rathaus.


Besides the architecture, we were surprised by the statues situated in the most unexpected corners of the open markets or streets.


Ilana visited Stralsund (by accident)

One week ago, I took my Quer-Durchs-Land Ticket and prepared a trip to Bremen. But as usual in the last months, my plans are not aimed to always work and I ended up in a completely different place. The main advantage of such a ticket is the price: 44 Euro for one adult, wherever you want to go, from 9am to 3 am. If you want to take another adult, he or she will pay 6 Euro, if you travel with a child under 14 yo, it is free. The disadvantage is you cannot travel with ICE, the fastest – and very expensive even for a generous travel budget – trains and thus, one should rely on the local connections and commuting options. When we realized that only one way to Bremen was 10 hours and we did not plan to stay overnight, we used our spontaneity and headed to the closer and newest and interesting-sounding location nearby. And we chose….Stralsund.

The city of architecture

We reached our destination after 3 hours of travel, with many stops every 7-8 minutes. The weather was nice and we passed by the usual poppy flowers and fields and some lakes. There were not too many tourists or passengers in general, except some groups of teenagers starting the vacation with a trip ‘in the countryside’. 

And, here we are, in the city of Stralsund. 

ImageAt the train station it is a small information office where we did grab some leaflets. We followed the arrows and headed to the ‘center’ of the town, 20 minutes by foot from the station. In case that you want to keep more energy for the rest of the trip, you can also take a cab or a bus. For the bike lovers there are good news: their space is bigger that the one for the poor walkers. We did not find any bike renting place though, so you better take your own. 

Everything looked quiet and pleasant, with many parks and a lake and teenagers heading to the swimming pools. It was a very hot day and we hoped to get a little bit of tan so we preferred to spend as much time as possible outdoors. We decided that we will not go to any museum, not even to the famous Ozeaneum, creatively designed by the architects in charge with the constructions of the Olympics in Munich, in 1972. 

However, we did not regret our decision and our cultural interests did not suffer. Any corner of the city offers a sample of the history of architecture. The city is included in the UNESCO World Heritage due to the richness in terms of history of urbanism. The first houses, reconstructed in the 1990s, were built in the 1320s. Even many of the constructions were affected by several big fires and wars, and the communists wanted to destroy parts of the old city the most important areas are still left and were massively rebuilt with EU and UNESCO funding. 


One of the most interesting buildings is the town hall. Turned into a gallery of traditional shops and small cafes, it was originally built in the 13th century. In 1750 was completely redesigned in the Baroque style that is still preserved, especially when you look at the decoration of the slim columns.

Those interested to find out more about the town, can take a mini-car tour that goes every 30 minutes, or to visit the Kulturhistoriches Museum. There is an information center situated close to the Town Hall, but the information is available only in German, the language spoken by the welcoming ladies working there. We did not see too many English speaking tourists, but quite a lot of Swedes, visiting the city in big tourist groups. Most probably they find more than one reason to feel at home, as many of the houses reminded me of Lund or any other small Swedish villages I visited some years ago.

What to do and eat in Stralsund

Stralsund was former prosperous Hanseatic city of major importance – here was signed the famous Treaty of Stralsund – with a rich multi-kulti heritage – as Wismar, it was Swedish for a while. It keeps a certain middle-class way of being: you may find a lot of local restaurants – and less Italian, Chinese or Thai food – serving fish and varieties of local cakes or bread. The prices, especially in the places with a sea view, are not cheap. The fish menu includes: Bismarck herring, needle fish, smoked eel and a large variety of fish sandwiches. 

As a respectable city of sailors – a monument for those who died on the sea is situated close to the promenade – it has a lot of whisky shops, most of them made in Scotland. We spotted two local varieties: whisky salami and rum salami. You drink while eating, and feel happy at the end. Another local pride is the Stralsund marzipan that compared to the famous Luebeck marzipan is less sweet, we were told. 

As it was summer, the ice cream parlours were everywhere, offering Italian ‘gelato’. The bakeries are serving local joguhbrot. We found a Bio place – Bio Insel –  close to the train station, for a coffee with soya milk, available from 7 to 7 daily. The service was pretty good but with a more than 30C outside, using air conditioning is part of the human rights chart, I suppose. 

For the shopping lovers, there are many local brands and nice looking shops where you can find pretty nice clothes, and the sale season is just at the beginning. I’ve found a lot of local galleries, selling unique ceramics and nicely designed clothes, jewels or postcards. If you are looking for a nice present back home, there you can find many creative ideas. 

The land and the sea

ImageThe most relaxing part of the trip for us – that helped to get rid of all the bad energy after we discovered that we cannot go to Bremen that day – was at the promenade. Going slowly, looking at the boats or watching the experienced fishermen, doing nothing, thinking about a long vacation at the beach, enjoying the hot days, the sun and the clear sky – that did not last more than 2 days…

From Stralsund, on the other side of a bridge, one can visit the Island of Ruegen and even a thought of trying to see it too went through my mind, I gave up for a next time when we will have more time to explore it. One of my friend told me recently that she spent a week in Stralsund commuting every day to the island, as it is cheaper to find a good accommodation to a hotel or private residence here than at Ruegen. 

Most probably, when and if we will visit Ruegen, we would like to have a fish at one of the promenade restaurants in Stralsund. The city is clean, interesting for history and architecture lovers and welcoming. Maybe the next time we will visit the Ozeaneum too. 

For more pictures from Stralsund, visit my dedicated Pinterest board:

Have a look at a sample of the summer time in Stralsund on YouTube:

10 Days in Bangladesh

Customized Bangladesh tours for German tourists


German tourists love to go to Asia the good weather all round the year being an important reason for the decision, besides the rich cultural heritage. What about spending 10 days on the road, from a part of the country to another? In Germany it is possible, because of the long holiday times allowed here. For today, I’ve found one package offer of a local tour operator to which I hope to add more other ideas in the next posts.


Discover the history and culture


The tour is to offer the best insights into the history and culture of Bangladesh during a 10-day trip. The trip includes visits at mosques and museums, at the country’s oldest archaeological site, Magasthangarh, in Bogra and to various UNESCO World Heritage objectives. Last but not least, the tourists are offered the opportunity to cruise along the rivers and observe directly the rural life of the fishermen and farmers, and to visit hill tribe villages in Bandarban.

The itinerary that is evaluated at 1850 USD/person can be done for minimum two persons. The accommodation is done in a twin room. The price covers: accommodation in a deluxe hotel in Dhaka and best available accommodations outside the capital city; breakfast and lunch, except the arrival and departure day plus one dinner; English speaking guide; transportation and transfer services; entry fees and other taxes requested in Bangladesh; domestic air ticket.

Tour Itinerary:

Day 1: Arrival to Dhaka

Arrival to Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh and an important city in South Asia, situated on the banks of the Buriganga River. Transfer to the 5-star deluxe hotel InterContinental.

Day 2: Full Day Sightseeing in Dhaka

Full-day tour of Dhaka, known as the city of mosques, includes: a visit to old Dhaka; Shakhari Bazaar, an urban street flanked with traditional craft shops; Sadarghat, Dhaka’s main waterfront; Ahsan Manzil palace; 17th-century Lalbagh fort, scene of a battle during the first war of independence (1857); the National Museum, which has a fine collection of folk art and handicrafts; and Liberation War Museum, which features an exhibit on the 1971 War of Independence.

Day 3: Dhaka/Bogra

The group will go to Bogra, situated four hours away from Dhaka, in the North. After lunch, they will visit Mahasthangarh, situated on the west bank of the Karatoya River. The visit will include a sightseeting of the excavations at Mahasthangarh, the oldest archaeological site in Bangladesh, where there were discovered the ruins of an old fortress city dating back to the 3rd century BCE.

Day 4: Bogra/Rajshahi

The next stage of the trip will continue with a drive westward to Rajshahi, an area famous for its silk industries. En route, visit Paharpur, location of one of the world’s largest Buddhist monasteries and a UNESCO-designated World Heritage site. The architectural characteristics resemble those in Myanmar, Cambodia and Java. Afterwards, the group will visit Puthia, site of the country’s largest Hindu temple complex, including the grand Govinda temple and Shiva temple. The amount of time spent on the road is around 6 hours.

Day 5: Rajshahi/Khulna

After breakfast, the group will head South (about 6 -7 hrs) to the port city of Khulna, while enjoying the rural Subcontinent scenery. On the way, it is included a visit at the Mosque City of Bagerhat, which has more than 50 Islamic monuments. Among them, the famous 60-Domed Mosque, a UNESCO-designated World Heritage site. Built in the 15th century by a Turkish general, the city was lost for centuries and re-discovered only in the early 20th century.

Day 6 : Khulna/Morrelganj/ Dhaka

The group will need to wake up early in the morning. At the end of a 2-hour trip, the group will arrive to Morrelganj to catch the Rocket Paddle Steamer (a remnant of a bygone age that is still very much in use nowadays) for Dhaka. A day and an overnight boat journey will drive the visitor along the mighty rivers of Bangladesh, a country also called ‘the land of rivers’. The cruise will take place in a first-class air-conditioned (2 beds) cabin. This river trip is an opportunity to witness scenes of rural Bangladesh that few get to see, as fishermen and farmers go about their daily lives.

Day 7: Dhaka/Chittagong/ Rangamati

The arrival to Dhaka will take place early in the morning. After breakfast at a local restaurant, it will take place the transfer to the airport for a short flight to Chittagong, the second largest city, in the southeast of the country. On arrival, a drive (about 2 hrs) takes the visitor to Rangamati, known as the lake district and one of the most beautiful parts of the country. Cruise on Kaptai Lake, Asia’s largest man-made lake, and visit an ethnic village.

Day 8: Rangamati/Bandarban

After breakfast, a scenic and hilly drive (about 4 hrs) the visitor will arrive to Bandarban, an area that is home to many indigenous hill tribes. Bandarban was inaccessible to travellers only a decade ago. Afternoon, the tourists will visit a hill tribe village.

Day 9: Bandarban/ Chittagong/Dhaka

The program of the morning includes a drive of 2-3 hours to Chittagong. The fly to Dhaka will take place after the lunch. On arrival, it will take place the transfer to the hotel.

Day 10: Dhaka/Germany

Transfer to the airport and board the flight to Germany


A day in the life of the travel writer

When I try to introduce my latest business as a travel blogger, I am received with envy and enthusiasm: oh, you are one of those people who are always on the road and even sometimes get paid (not the case here) for discovering fancy places, tasting exceptional meals and sleeping in gorgeous hotels? And what are you doing the whole day? Taking pictures that you post on Pinterest or on Twitter? What a cool life do you have?

I recognize that I love a lot my life, especially after I decided that the only person that it is worth to work for it’s only me. As I am a special case of multi-tasking: sometimes I pin, tweet, or write 2 words while listening to some podcast, simply because I can, the life in the social media realm suits me very well. Writing and taking pictures are also part of my old passions that fuelled my early dreams of a career, in my early teenage years. Plus, sometimes I can do good PR tricks as I did some constant work in this domain for a couple of years. I have a lot of interests that I am sharing between my different blogs and social media profile and I am more than happy with this. Thanks to my academic background I am able to access a lot of historical and sociological information that, I hope, gives a different spin to my posts. 

But the only thing I am not allowed to say about this life is that it is easy and the rewards are instant. Behind every trip it is a lot of work and documentation, photo editing and selection. As I do not have the whole time in the world to do it, I need to set up the right schedule in order to get the best of my travel experience. Plus, don’t forget that I am trying to be as informative as possible and thus, my posts are not exercises of self-admiration but are aimed to offer information for anyone interested to see a new place, not necessarily one featured in the big travel magazines. I am permanently hunting new topics, sending mails in order to get the access to new locations and trying to get in touch with the right people for advice, inspiration and guidance. I need to introduce each month new products and new features on the blogs, to improve the quality and the technical appearance of all my social media products. From time to time, I also need a new camera and a better computer meaning that I should be able to get new reliable sources of income. 

I spend at least 40 hours the week with writing, reading, reviewing, updating and editing, as well as preparing and planning new posts. There it is a lot to learn, mainly in terms of social media and proper SEO and every single steps ahead is the result of intensive work, work and work. 

Life is not easy, but at least I try to make it pleasant. Since I am back in the writing business I am happier than ever and will never regret the decision to get out of the corporate life. There are many travel bloggers and freelance writers saying almost the same so it must be a certain true in this determination.

Ilana would love to go Maldives

Winter is always close here and I should plan my long summer vacations long in advance. I am undecided right now where I should go, but I do my homeworks carefully. The blue sky and the clean water brought me close to the Maldives that I try to explore right now through words.

A world of islands and atolls

The Maldives are situated in two rows of atolls in the Indian Ocean, just across the equator. The country is made up of 1,190 coral islands formed around 26 natural rink-like atolls, spread over 90,000 square kilometers. These atoll structures are formed upon a sharp ridge rising from the ocean, making new way for their secluded uniqueness. In the center of this archipelago is situated Male, the capital city.

Ninety-nice percent of the Maldives is made up of sea. The people of the islands are widely dispersed across the atolls, with about 200 inhabited islands. About 100 islands are developed as tourist resorts and the rest are uninhabited or used for agriculture and other livelihood purposes.

Each atoll in the Maldives is made of a coral reef encircling a lagoon, with deep channels dividing the reef ring. A string of islands are disposed among this atoll ring; each island has its own reef encircling the island lagoon. The reefs of the islands, alive with countless types of underwater creatures and vibrant corals, protect the islands from wind and wave action of the surrounding oceans. The unique structure of reefs and channels makes navigation almost impossible for the passer-by without sufficient information.

The Culture of Maldives

The local culture is diverse, and reflects a lot of traditions and customer. The Maldives were populated for over 3,000 years. The first settlers were from the neighboring countries of Sri Lanka and Southern India.

The language spoken in the Maldives is called Dhivehi, a language close to the Sanskrit, that has various dialects especially in the southernmost atolls. The writing is called ‘Thaana’. The language was heavily influenced by the Arabic introduced as the language of the religion. Nowadays, English is widely spoken on the island.

How to make the reservation

As you may travel in a new place for the first time, the recommendation of the experts is to always try to work with tour operators and accredited travel agents. They may be helpful in:

– arranging room allotments at resorts, hotels and dicing safari boats

– consultation about which resort suit your needs, especially if you travel as a family

– arranging transfers and other details for conferences and business meetings

– establishing the details for ceremonial wedding packages or honeymoon/anniversaries offers

Ilana on the road wants to know more about Bogota

As I never went to Latin America, I am interested to document a possible trips in the area and I started to read and find out more about the main locations and recommendations for a possible journey in an uncertain future. The main concerns I was warned about are related to the safety of Western tourists, due to the high rate of kidnappings and robberies, but I was also told that as long as you are following group guided tours and do not look for adventures, a trip in the region can be as safe as an adventure in the Los Angeles neighbourhoods.

For today, I had a long exploration of Bogota, the capital city of Colombia.

Visit to the center of the country

Situated at 2,640 meters above sea level, Bogota is situated on the eastern edge of the Sabana, a wide plain crossed from North to South by the Bogota River which flows out over the Tequendama Falls. The temperature is pleasant all round the year, with an average of 14C. The dry months go from December through March. The wettest months are April and August through December.

The main access roads to Bogota are The Autposita norte, Autopista Sur, Troncal del Occidente, Autopista de los Llanos Orientales and Autopista Medellin.

Since 1954, Bogota is a metropolitan area and has a population of almost eight million. It includes the urban districts of Usme, Bosa, Fontibon, Engativa, Suba and Usaquen. The center of the government and seat of the main state institutions, it is divided into 20 ‘localities’ or districts, further subdivided into 1,000 neighbourhoods.

The Eastern side of Bogota is flanked by mountains, out of them Monserrate and Guadelupe being one of the most sought by tourists. The Bogota River is situated on the Western side of the city. To the South are the foothills of the Paramo de Sumpaz while on the North all you can find are farmlands.

The numbering of the streets is based on a grid: the calles (or diagonales) run from East to West, perpendicular to the hills. The carreras (or transversales) are streets that run from South to North, parallel to the hills. Numbering to the North starts at Calle 1 and to the West at Carrera 1. Numbering to the South of Calle 1 starts at Calle 1S (sur) and to the East of Carrera 1 with Carrera 1E (este).

A little bit of history (as usual)

The first name of the city was Santafé, a locality founded on August 6th, 1538 by the Spaniard Gonzalo Jimenez de Quesado. It was set on the slopes of Montserrate and Guadelupe, on the site of Teusaquillo, a small indigenous settlement. It was part of the territory of the Muiscas, a large group of the indigenous culture of Chibcha. Their remarkable work was the art of gold-work, textiles and pottery.

Santafé was chosen as the capital of the New Kingdom of Granada (Neuva Granada). In 1550, the Royal Courts were established there. The city developed dramatically during the colonial period. By the beginning of the 19th century, it has a population of around 30,000 people and a rich religious life. The religious orders present here created not only monasteries but also centers of education, especially schools and universities, many of them still in place today, such as Santo Tomas, Javeriana and Rosario. Moreover, the cultural and artistic life developed as well, testimony being the heritage of paintings, carvings and sculptures and in the 18th-19th century, the French Enlightment started to manifest in the history of ideas and cultural debates. In 1802, the Astronomical Observatory was built, an almost unique initiative in the region.

Since 1740 till the independence, the city was chosen as the seat of the Viceroy. Santafé played an important role in the beginning of the independence movement. After Simon Bolivar become the president of the new republic in 1819, he decided to change the name of the city to Bogota. Till the political conflict ended at the beginning of the 20th century, the city was the affected by the war and social unrest. Meanwhile, Bogota developed as a city of arts and was called ‘the city of poets’. Since 1886, the National School of Fine Arts started to produce impressive landscape and portraits, many exposed at the National Museum. In 1882, the railway network begin to develop, connecting Bogota with the rest of the country. By 1900, the population reached the threshold of 100,000.

The modernization of the city took place at different periods of time in the 20th century. In 1938, when the city celebrated its 400th anniversary, the population was of 333, 312 and the city was in search of better plans of urbanism. The most outstanding works done was the creation of Eldorato International Airport and of Autposta Norte. In 1954, the city expanded with more neighbourhoods.  Nowadays, the city has a population of almost 7 million.

Citytours in Bogota

Bogota offers many opportunities to tourists from all over the world. The list of the most recommended tours includes:

The historic center of Bogota – by foot: The historical center of the city or La Candelaria was declared a National Monument in 1963. The tour includes a visit at the main religious objectives in the area, the old streets around Bolivar Square, with their Spanish flavour and the old style mansions or the neoclassical eclectic architecture. Traditional cuisine can be tasted at the local restaurants such as La Puerta Falsa. During the tour one may see a lot of antique shops, restaurants, classic and experiemnta theatres and museums.

Walking through Jimenez Avenue – The street carries the name of the founder of Bogota, the Conquistator Gonzales Jimenez de Quesada. It markes the northern end of the historical center and was built over the old San Francisco River running east to west down from the Andes to join the Bogota River. The visitor will see the old Herb Market, nowadays the Parque Santander, many colonial-style buildings, many of them headquarters of institutions, but also jewelery shops, bureaux de change, traditional bookshops, such as Lerner. On the corner of Carrera 7 one can see the traces of the old tramlines used for public transportation in the first half of the last century. At Carrera 3 it is Parque de los Periodistas, with a Republican Monument, the Templete al Libertador, by Pietro Tenerani. The Eastern end of the avenue opens out around the walls of the Academia de la Lengua, the headquarters of the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language. The tour ends in the cloisters, now the headquarters of the State crafts organization and a crafts exhibition center.

Bogota: Amusement and Education – by car: Parque Simon Bolivar and its surroundings form a huge complex of amusement parks, green zones, recreational facilities, an interactive science center, mechanical attractions, sports centers and museums. It also includes the Botanical Garden, the Aquaparque and the Children’s Museum.

Other recommended attractions:

Banco de la Republica’s Cultural Complex includes the Art Museujm, the Republican House, the Tenporary Exhibitions Room, the collection of musical instruments.

Museo Botero. The art collection donated by Colombian artist Fernando Botero is considered as one of the most important in the country’s history. The donation comprises around 120 of the works of the artist, but also some of the most representative late 19th and 20th century artists, such as Renoir, Picasso, Degas, Chagall and Bonard.

Centro Cultural Gabriel Garcia Marquez is a building designed by the architect Rogelio Salmona, with a library of more than 80,000 books of big editorial houses of Spanish language, a gallery, an auditorium and an auditorium for children.

Hacienda Santa Barbara Shopping Center, a former large farmhouse, declared national monument. Another shopping destination is Unicentro Shopping Center where the shops offer a wide range of clothing for all ages, leather goods, shoes, books, works of art, furniture, games, toys, decorations, as well as restaurants.

Colonial Art Museum, a typical Spanish American building, with spacious galleries and a large courtyard, in the middle of which is the first fountain in the city, built in the 16th century, called Mono de la Pila. The exhibition rooms contain valuable examples of Colonial painting, carving, sculpture, silver work, furniture, porcelain and marquetry.

Museum of Modern Art was opened in 1955 and was designed by Rogelio Salmona. It houses the most complete collection of Colombian contemporary art in the country.

Gold Museum has one of the most rich pre-Hispanic metal collection in the world. Since 1968, it preserves, investigates, communicates and exhibits a collection of 50,000 objects of gold, but also of other precious metals, ceramic, stone, bone, shells, wood, textiles.

Regional Dress Museum is hosted in a house that originally belonged to Bolivar’s companion Manuelita Saenz. It displays textiles and various models of indigenous and regional dresses.

Emerald Museum is offering to the visitor extensive information about the process of the extraction of the emeralds, starting at a real tunnel that shows the streaks of the different emerald deposits in Colombia with a wide collection of exceptional pieces.

Planetario de Bogota has a large dome and a projection system which electrically, optically and electromechanically reproduces celestial phehomena. The dome, with a diameter of 25 metres, is the biggest in Latin America and can seat 482 people. The principal activies include projections of the vault of heaven, laser projections, telescope observation days, astronomy workshops, lectures on various astronomy-related subjects.

Montserrate Sanctuary – Funicular and cablecar crowns one of the hills that tower up behind the city. It is not only a place for pilgrims, but also a destination for anyone interested to have a panoramic view of the city. At the top there are two exclusive restaurants, San Isidro and Santa Clara, but also a line of small shops, which sell crafts from different regions of Colombia.

Mercado de las Pulgas flea market is situated on Calles 116 to 122,  between Carrera 7 and 2.

For those interested to spend a nigh out in the town, the recommendation of the experts is to find Zona Rosa, situated on Calles 79 and 85 between Carreras 11 and 15. It is an area where the possibilities for social gatherings and partying are endless. Throughout the area, but particularly in the so-called Zona T, one may find pleasant bars, cafes, discotheques and restaurants. It is the best place for a romantic encounter, a get-together with friends as well as for a business meeting.

Other practical information

The luxury and executive hotels can be found around Calle 127, Calle 100 in the Chico neighborhood and in Avenida Chile. Many are ten minutes away from the Eldorado International Airport. In neighborhoods such as Chapinero, Teusaquillo and La Candelaria, there are smaller hotels, inns and pensions with very affordable rates. It is recommended that the reservation is made at least one week in advance.

It is possible to pay by cash, credit card or travellers’s cheque for hotels. For restaurants, it is recommended to pay cash – preferably in local currency – or by credit card.

The restaurants offer products and services for every budget and taste. There are some particularly appetizing local dishes, such as ajiaco, puchero santafereno, cocido boyancense, beef picadas, and the tamal con chocolate (recommended for breakfast). Restaurants are usually open from noon to 1 a.m. Most restaurants have designated smoking areas.

When leaving Colombia, the tourists may pay an airport and departure tax. The amounts are regularly updated and the best is to ask at a travel agency, hotel or aiport. The tax does not apply if you are in transit or leaving within 72 hours upon arrival. Travellers with a tourist visa or permit who stay in Colombia for less than 60 days and children under the age of five pay only the Airport Tax.

Bogota has some of the purest drinking water in Latin America and thus there are no problems in this respect.

For security reasons, the tourist may carry his or her original identity document. Use the hotel safety-deposit for your valuables and if you handle a camera or video recorder, handle it discreetly.

In Bogota, there are special taxis for tourists (green and cream) or yellow ones. The basic fare is about $1.5 and an hour hire within city limits is little over $4. On Sundays and public holidays some of the main streets are closed off to traffic from 7am to 2pm and used for recreational cycling or skating.

Last but not least: In Bogota it is possible to taste and buy by pounds, the best coffee produced in different coffee regions of the country.

Ilana is ready for a(nother) one day trip

I am ready for another one day trip, part of my beloved Project 100 Places to See in Germany during which I will try to discover as much as possible from a lovely German city.  I am up two hours in advance, in order to finish some of my work too, but what I am going to take with me?

Let’s see:

– I never leave without my camera, my notebook, a pen and my cell. At least once it happened to forget my pen but was creative enough to use my smart phone as a notebook. For the camera, I want to be sure that the batteries are charged and there are no pictures left from the last photo session.

– The other batch of necessities is made of: my press card, my ID, my ticket and my credit card. As in Germany the bank transfer taxes are outrageous, I try to have some cash with me in case that will not find an ATM of my bank. 

– Now it is a lovely summer and today there will be at least 30C, but the weather may be unpredictable so I try to do not forget: an umbrella, a denim jacket and eventually some head coverage when will stay too much outdoors.

– The last part of the packing is very subjective, and part of the lady’s closet: a natural lip balm from Beecology (my latest addiction), some wet napkins and liquid soap, a box of Tic Tac. A bottle of water and eventually 1 sandwich will add more weight to my luggage. 

– Unless I am waiting for the project of my life, I don’t carry the computer with me. Instead, I try to take the best advantages of the free time and always have a book – or two. This time, I plan to read during the 3-hour trip the Slumdog millionaire. In case I did not have time to document enough my next trip, I would try to do it during the bus or train connection adding to the luggage a local guide. 

I am almost done. I need to finish my coffee now.Image

Ilana is curious to discover more about tours in Lima

I have some good acquaintances from Peru living in Europe and they always keep telling me how beautiful country they have. As usual in such cases, my imagination is challenged and before I will go there to check with my own eyes, camera and pen, I do exhaustive research among specialists and companies operating in the area. This time, I stumbled upon my Facebook friends from Lima Discovery and asked them about what are their main packages and offers for this summer.

Till the first week of August, tourists from Latin America, Europe, America or Asia can book a 6-day tour that includes Peru for 3 days and Cuzco for the rest of the stay. The groups will be picked up from the airport and brought to the hotel. After a city tour of Lima, there it is free time to explore the city. On the fourth day, the transfer is made to the Lima airport from where one will fly to Cuzco. After the transfer to the hotel an excursion around the city is offered, followed by a lunch, included in the price. The city tour will take place in the area of the ruins, including a visit at the Temple of Koricancha. The tour lasts around 6 hours and also includes a panoramic view of Plaza de Armas, of the Cathedral, the visit at the Archaeological complex and other historical locations.

The fifth day is dedicated to a visit to Machu Picchu. After the breakfast, the tourists are transferred to the train station and brought to the Machu Picchu by train. The accommodation is made at a 3-star hotels in Lima and Cuzco, breakfast, some tourist transportation, guide and entrance fees. The package costs $999.

The guides are provided in English, French and Portuguese.

For European tourists, shorter tours are possible, for a cheaper price of $900, that includes 2 days in Lima and 3 days all inclusive in Cuzco, with breakfast, transfers, city tour in Lima, full day at Machu Pichu and accommodation at 3-star hotels.

Ilana on the road dreams about Vanuatu

During my school years, the geography lessons were one of my favourite classes, a good sign for the traveler to be that I am. At the time, Vanuatu sounded as a kind of poetic name, but it seems that the place is a good inspiration for day-dreamers, as I am. 

Who are Vanuatu people?

The Y-shaped archipelago of Vanuatu is situated in the South West Pacific. Out of the 83 islands, the most important are: Espiritu Santo, Tanna, Malekula and Efate. The local population is Melanesian but are also called ni-Vanuatu. They speak Bismala, a local language mixing English and French. Besides, other 110 languages are spoken in different islands of the archipelago. The population is quite diverse, the islands hosting French, Australian, Chinese and Vietnamese communities. This diversity of languages and cultures recommends Vanuatu as one of the most friendliest places in the region. People that spent shorter or longer time there will always remember the smiles and friendly ‘hellos’ they were received with by the locals

What to do in Efate

The main destination of Efate is the capital city of Port Villa, where one can find a colourful mix of offices, restaurants, galleries and markets. You can book a tour of the city or decide to make a trip outside or even a cruise in the island. Everything is relatively easy to do as there is a high concentration of tour operators and guides ready to help. 

A tour round the island will reveal a lot of great beaches, unique cultural experiences and a bigger picture of the village life. You don’t have to fear to take a tour by yourself on the care, taxi, or a bus. 

In addition, one can do: horse ride, fish, swim, surf, bush walk, drive, kayak and cycle. Quite a lot of options, isn’t it? The main influences are French, English and Asian, with many local restaurants – from take-aways to classy restaurants – and resorts. The accommodation options are fit for a diversity of budgets and possibilities: there are several international standard hotels and resorts, idyllic island style place, camping, bungalows, but also opportunities for backpackers. 

Underwater in Espiritu Santo

Divers from all over the world wish to go at least once here to experience the marine life and the famous shipwrecks – many situated only five minutes drive from Luganville, the capital of the island. Among them: the Million Dollar Point, Champagne Beach and the world famous SS President Coolidge, a 1930s luxury liner converted into a US troopship which lies in 20-70 meters of water. The island provides an important source of revenue for the economy of Vanuatu, thanks to the rich reserves of cocoa, coffee and coconut. Add to this also the quality of the cattle exported here. 

A recommended guided tour here should include the Millenium Cave. As in the case of Efate, the accommodation offers a diversity of options for every budgets. The same goes for the dining temptations. 

Volcano experiences in Tanno

The most populated island in the southern province, Tanna is hosting what is considered the world’s most accessible volcano, a ‘magical place to forget about the rest of the world’. The volcano on the island is situated on Mt. Yasur, where culture and mystery and customs are preparing an addictive cocktail for every traveler. The recommended option is to book overnight stops, preferably over 3 nights. The hiking to the top lasts around 20 minutes, and from the top one will witness an unforgettable sight.  

The island is appreciated for the high quality of the production, with many kava, coffee, exotic fruits and vegetables growing on the island. 

One can reach Tanna via flight from Port Villa. The accommodation options are diverse and the best advice is to ask the opinion of a representative of the tourism office in Port Vila. 

Besides the volcano, other choices for spending your time in Tanna are: a visit at the Kastom Village with wild horses and white grass plains, a tour in an air taxi and a visit at a coffee plantation. 

Dancing in Pentecost

This particular island is famous for the land-diving ritual, the original bungy jumping. The ritual, called in the local language Naghol, takes place on Saturdays in April, May and June. If for the tourists it looks as an interesting and funny ritual, for the locals it guarantees a plentiful yam harvest the following year.

The island is also known for the ritual dancing, the specific mat and basket weaving and the symbolic sand drawing. 

Another volcanos in Ambrym

Ambrym is attractive mountain lovers and anyone interested in learning more and exploring the geography of volcanoes. The twin volcanoes of Mt. Marum and Mt. Benbow are both active but does not present a high danger for the visitors. The natural life is very rich, especially for those interested in the large turtles. 

Dancing kastom in Malekula

Malekula is the second largest island in the archipelago, with a population of 20,000 people and over 30 different languages representing many cultural groups. The diversity is represented in the culture and dances, one of the most famous being the kastom, and the art – sand drawing, masks and puppet figures. 

Ilana on the road goes to Prenzlau

Compared to London, Sweden or even Paris, the weather around my town was optimistically good and sunny and I could not resist the temptation to offer myself (another) day off in the countryside. This time, I explored for 4 hours the city of Prenzlau, in the always surprising region Brandenburg.

Discovering Uckermark

The trip from Berlin lasted 1h40, with 10 minutes of delay at the beginning of the trip. The trip goes fast, without too many stops. The train was full of groups of tourists over 50-60 that I later meet in Prenzlau. A regular round trip costs around 25 Euro. The trains are coming and going every 2 hours, but you should check the schedule before hand as when I left Prenzlau it was nobody at the train station to offer me more information about the program of the trains. From here you can easily go by bus to Stettin, in Poland, that I will present on another occasion. 

The landscape was light green, with red dots of the poppy flowers, a trademark of the area apparently. Prenzlau is part of the historical region of Uckermark whose 60% of the natural area is protected, part of the largest single lowland beech forest in the world. The towns we passed by looked like empty, without too much action on the street. 

Uckermark is recommended for the quiet ambiance, the natural richness, with many species of birds and fish, and the simple and healthy cuisine. Some of the main activities recommended for tourists are paddling, drifting and paddling. As I will notice in Prenzlau too, there are not high-end hotels, but for those interested to get a taste of the local culture, the option of renting a room from a local house can be a good option. 

Meeting the local history

If I would be asked to pick up a word to define Prenzlau, this would be ‘flowers’. There are not only flowers everywhere, on the balconies, in the parks or the corners of the old buildings and fortifications, but the city streets smell like a combined scent of various flowers. 

After arriving at the central train station – that connects the city to the rest of the world since the second half of the 19th century – I took a walk till the center. My first impression was that a hungry tourist from Berlin will not starve here, as I saw at least 5 restaurants – Chinese, Turkish, Italian and Greek, among others – during my first 10-minute walk.

At the beginning of the 19th century, the city was the place where the Napoleon’s troops fought against the Preusians. During the 1945 war, the city was destroyed in proportion of 85%, and many monuments are reminding the losses. During the Cold War, it was part of the DDR, and many of the buildings remember those grey times. After the reunification, many of the communist blockhouses were repainted and got a very young and colourful look. 

The first encounter with the local history takes place at the Stettin Gate Tower, part of the Medieval system of defense. It was built originally in the 13th century and rebuilt in the 14th. It has a heigh of 32 meters. At the beginning there were about 60 fortified houses within the walls, 4 tower gates, 2 wall gates and 2 wall towers. 

The overall architecture of the city is simple and the main official buildings are erected in red bricks. Do not expect to find a shopping heaven either. Prenzlau is for people looking to relax, and taste the pleasure of the colourful gardens. Before buying my ticket for the main attraction of the city, Landesgartenschau, I went on the top of the Schwedter Turm and had a panoramic view of the city: a lot of green and waters, a good remedy to a busy city life that you probably have in Berlin or elsewhere. 

Two hours in the middle of the flowers

A visit a the Landesgardenschau can last between 2 and 4 hours. Even more, if you want to have a long meal at one of the restaurants. The food is relatively cheap, with a regular menu and a drink worth 7-8 Euro. 

The tickets cover the two parts of the garden: the Stadtpark – with more monuments and history, such as the Tower of Witches, the Red Army Memorial and the Jewish Cemetery and the Seepark – where you can find a lot of gardens and flowers arrangements, a mini-stadium for various cultural events, and the Uckersee. It was a busy day and guided tours in German were starting almost every 10 minutes. In the park, the explanations for the most important monuments were available in English and German – and sometimes in Polish too – and I also found an English presentation of the region. Otherwise, get ready to practice and improve your German if you really want to find out about Prenzlau. As for me, I tried as much as possible to improve my clumsy German so I cannot say how easy is to use the English.

Because it was a sunny day, many were those who decided to sit on the chairs around the sea and relax, dozing, or reading or simply watching around. The water does not look clean everywhere but there is a special section designated for swimming. The children have many playground and their parents can watch them from outside, sitting on a bench or on a reclining chair. Don’t hurry up, you have the whole day ahead to see everything.

In the sea-part of the garden, one can have a look and eventually taste some of the local products, many of them unusual combinations of tastes – as the rhubarb and chocolate. I was invited to taste and take pictures and even offered a lot of information about various products, especially drinks such as the asparagus beer or various fruity strong alcoholic beverages – with 36-40% concentration. Dangerous for a hot day, isn’t it? My lunch took place hours later, at a vegetarian bakery, simply called Lew, where I enjoyed a slice of veggie pizza, and a cherry cake and a coffee on a terrace in the interior garden.

Besides some historical updates, my biggest pleasure in the city was to walk and spend a lot of time among flowers. Local sorts or exotic arrangements, designed corners or wild flowers growing up in parks, at every moment I enjoyed their company and wished I am more familiar with their names and specific breeds. 

A quite place that I would like to visit from time to time, especially in the summer. 

Do you want to have a video look of Prenzlau? Here is the YouTube video I took.

For more pictures, check my dedicated Pinterest board.


Samples of local cuisine.


The art can be found in the most surprising places and ways


At the first sight, you might think you are in Thailand. True is that you are in the middle of the flower paradise of Landesgartenschau.


Relaxing is the code for a successful time spent in Prenzlau.


There are no more Jews in Prenzlau and the Jewish cemetery was destroyed in 1938. A group of Polish and German school children recovered some of the original stones and set up a Remembrance wall.