Sporades and Evia: Greek Islands Holiday Guide

Sporades and Evia: Greek Islands Holiday Guide

In the first of a new series on holidaying in the Greek islands we look at the Sporades – including Skopelos, where Mamma Mia! was filmed – and Evia, the country’s second largest island, where the Greeks go on holiday.

The Sporades, which stretch out into the Aegean off Greece’s eastern coast, consist of 24 islands, but only four of these are permanently inhabited: Skiathos, Skopelos, Alonissos and Skyros.

Skiathos is the most-travelled of the islands thanks to its international airport, and its fame lies mainly in its sandy beaches. Away from the coast you can still find isolated hiking trails and the odd Byzantine monastery.

Skopelos is larger, but less visited than Skiathos. Its rugged scenery is perhaps more beautiful and certainly less developed. Its charms were celebrated in the film Mamma Mia!.

Much more rugged Alonissos lies in the middle of a marine park and is surrounded by a group on uninhabited satellite islands. Visitors have increased in the last decade or so, but it retains an exclusive air and some exceptional hiking routes.

Skyros is by far the least visited of the traditional Sporades, at least by non-Greeks (there is a domestic airport). Those prepared to find their way here, however, are amply rewarded by an atmosphere that blends traditional Greek village life with an increasingly trendy “alternative” vibe.

Although not strictly part of the Sporades, Evia also lies off Greece’s eastern coast. The second largest island in Greece after Crete, and located conveniently close to Athens, it should be much better known (classicists might recognise it as Euboea). From its fertile north to the mountainous south it offers a wealth of travel opportunities.

Sporades and Evia: Greek Islands Holiday Guide

Southern Skiathos

Skiathos caters mainly to package tours but these apartments and villas, located right by sandy Vromolimnos beach in the south of the island, offer stylish white-washed accommodation among the pine forest and the bougainvillea of their gardens. The accommodation is simple but good value and also quietly sophisticated.

Just five minutes’ walk away, this traditional taverna is renowned as one of the best on the island, with a changing menu based on what is fresh that day (this should be true of every good taverna). Leave room for the baked apple and yoghurt dessert.

Skiathos is all about the beaches, and the fine sandy strip of Vromolimnos is one of the prettiest. It is more low key than some, but still lined with cafes and offers waterskiing.

Evia

Evia is little visited by non-Greeks, and those who do come tend to stay in all inclusive resorts. The alternative is to stay in private villas. This example, in the tiny village of Enoria near the east coast of the island, revels in its isolation, but is well equipped and has a private pool and breathtaking views.
• +44 7939 174714, littlestonevilla.com, €1,330, sleeps 6, no breakfast, FF

Set on the small square of Steni (see below) this mountain taverna specialises in meat-based dishes, either from the oven or the grill. Mountain spring water emanates mysteriously from a tap in a nearby tree.

The road up the mountains to Steni from the east coast is spectacular, and do-able in a normal car even when not paved. The village itself is famed for its mountain air and spring water and is surrounded by hiking trails.

What to see in Ljubljana, Slovenia

What to see in Ljubljana, Slovenia

Slovenia’s – and now Europe’s – green capital is a laid-back charmer of a city. Easily walkable, it boasts striking architecture and a vibrant outdoor eating and drinking culture.

s capital of one of Europe’s most forested countries, it’s perhaps fitting that Ljubljana is this year’s European Green Capital. A city of just 300,000 inhabitants, Ljubljana has often been ahead of the game when it comes to green initiatives – from the introduction of a sophisticated waste management system (Ljubljana was the first EU capital to adopt a zero-waste programme) and the creation of new green spaces from degraded urban land, to electrically powered golf buggy-type vehicles (kavalirs) offering free transport around the old town, which is otherwise closed to traffic. Official Green Capital celebrations kicked off last month, but there are numerous events taking place throughout the year.

The city oozes charm, a delightful confection of Baroque and Habsburg inspired-architecture, richly painted churches, abundant greenery and engaging riverside cafes. Moreover, its location, at the heart of this tiny, but astonishingly diverse country, means it’s no more than a couple of hours away from anywhere, be it the imperious limestone mountains and glacial lakes of the Julian Alps, the magical subterranean world of the Karst region, historic coastal towns or the lush vineyards in its hinterland.
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Things to do in Patos Island, Greece


Things to do in Patos Island, Greece

Unrivalled natural beauty, beaches with crystal clear waters, unrivalled Byzantine footpaths connecting traditional villages and breathtaking landscapes make Páros, located at the heart of the Cyclades, one of the best loved holiday destinations in Greece.

Parikía (Parikiá), the capital of Páros, is a beautiful Cycladic village with whitewashed cubic houses and impressive neoclassical mansions. A well preserved 13th century Venetian castle stands proudly on a hill at the centre of the village offering an amazing view of Parikía. In the capital you can also admire an important ecclesiastical monument, the 6th century church of Panayia Ekatontapyliani, also called Katapoliani.

The name “Ekatontapylianí” means the church with 100 gates (“Ekató Pýles” in Greek), one of which is a secret one! Don’t miss the chance to visit the baptistery (4th century AD), one of the best preserved baptisteries in the Orthodox East, and the Byzantine Museum. The Parikía Byzantine Museum is housed on the ground floor of the church. Its exhibits include icons, wood-carved iconostases and other heirlooms from various monasteries and churches on the island.

The Archaeological Museum displays exhibits from the island’s monuments (such as the Sanctuary of Asklipios and Pythios Apollonas, Delion etc.), including part of the “Parian Chronicle”, a chronological table of the 3rd century BC with references to important events and personalities of antiquity.

The marble quarries at Maráthi, where the famous Parian marble used to be extracted, were in operation from the 3rd millennium BC up to the 19th century. The mining galleries along with remains of 19th century industrial buildings are still preserved and can be visited!

Things to do in Patos Island, Greece

Meet the villages!

• Wander through beautiful traditional villages like Náoussa, a colourful village, where the ruins of a Venetian fortress stand at the entrance to its small harbour. Léfkes is located at the highest point of Páros and enjoys stunning views of the island. The village is set up in the mountains and is surrounded by a rich green landscape. It has very well preserved Cycladic and neoclassical buildings, beautiful squares and narrow marble alleys. The Museum of Aegean Folk Culture at Léfkes offers a tour of the culture of the Archipelago; discover the Aegean world through its exhibits, which include pieces related to the architecture, traditional trades and geology of the islands.

• Márpissa, founded in the 15th century, is a traditional village with a distinctive medieval character. It is located on a hill, a few kilometres away from the famous beaches of Loyarás and Písso Livádi. You can also visit the impressive Monastery of Ayios Antonios (17th century) on the hill of Kéfalos, where the ruins of a 15th century Venetian castle stand, and enjoy a wonderful view of the sea. Petaloúdes is an area of stunning beauty near the village of Psychopiana. The habitat is rich in vegetation and running water, with tall plane trees, laurels, wild olive trees, and carob trees covered in ivy that play host to the butterfly species Panaxia quadripunstaria.

What about beaches?

• Sun-drenched beaches, like Chrissí Aktí, Santa Maria and Poúnda, welcome sun-loving visitors who want to enjoy the crystal clear sea, the sun or even their favourite water sports! Every year Chrissí Aktí is the venue for the Windsurfing World Championship. On the sea bed at Alykí beach, to the southwest, you can explore the ruins of an ancient town!

• Don’t miss the opportunity to live experience an exhilarating touring all around the coast of the island by canoe or kayak! Enjoy the unusual natural landscape with impressive white rock formations on Kolymbíthres beach. The beach of Kalóyeros, surrounded by red and green clay rocks offers a really effective spa for free! Cover your body with clay and let it dry in the sun; after a while rinse yourself in the sea and your body will feel softer than ever!

Discover the island’s stunning beauty by hiking! Walk along “strátes”, the trails created by farmers to help them cross the island and transport their goods. It’s like stepping back into history. Here are two itineraries you might like to try:
• The Byzantine Léfkes-Pródromos trail, paved with marble paving stones most of the way, takes an hour to walk. It starts from the verdant village of Léfkes and crosses slopes with cultivated terraces and a small Byzantine bridge. The final destination is to the beautiful village of Pródromos with its impressive maze-like alleys.

• Starting from the village of Márpissa, with its Byzantine churches, 17th century houses and quaint windmills, walk towards Kéfalos Hill and Áyios Antónios Monastery. Going uphill along the cobblestone path, you will come across the ruins of the Venetian town of Kéfalos and the Castle. At the top, enjoy the view over the eastern part of the island and visit the Monastery of Áyios Antónios with its gold-leaf wood-carved iconostasis.

• Alternatively, you can discover the island on horseback! There are two horse-riding centres, one by the sea, at Ambelás, and one at Ystérni. Ride around the coast, along the sandy beaches or take a detour inland – a great way to see for yourself some of the most beautiful spots on the island!

Introducing Chios Island, Greece

Introducing Chios Island, Greece

Likeable Chios is one of Greece’s bigger islands and, with its small neighbour Inousses, is significant in national history as the ancestral home of shipping barons. Its varied terrain ranges from lonesome mountain crags in the north, to the citrus-grove estates of Kampos, near the island’s port capital in the centre, to the fertile Mastihohoria in the south – the only place in the world where mastic trees are commercially productive.

Chians are a hospitable lot who take great pride in their history, traditions and livelihood. For the visitor, this translates into opportunities for interaction with Chian culture, ranging from art and cuisine to hiking and eco-activities.

Chios enjoys regular boat connections throughout the northeastern Aegean Islands, and has an airport. Between them, the ports of Chios Town in the east and Volissos in the northwest offer regular ferries to the intriguing, little-visited satellite islands of Psara and Inousses, which share Chios’ legacy of maritime greatness, and to the lively Turkish coastal resorts just across the water.

Introducing Chios Island, Greece

Where to Stay

Perleas Estate

In the interior of this popular island is this superbly-restored old mansion set in four acres of land now given over to organic fruit, olives and vegetables. Attention to detail is the key here, with the gorgeous rooms mixing traditional styles with a nod to the Genoan history of the estate.

• £585, +30 22710 32217

Where to Eat

Fabrika

In an old olive press in the market town of Volissos, this taverna specialises in grilled meat (done properly over charcoal). For the carnivore this is heaven (in particular try kokoretsi if it’s on the day’s menu – just don’t ask what it is first) but don’t worry if that’s not your thing as there are plenty of other dishes.
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• +30 22740 22045

Don’t Miss

Chios made its fortune from the harvesting of mastic, a tree resin once chewed in the harems of Ottoman Istanbul. The product is just a curiosity now, but the villages that were based around the industry still make worthwhile visit. The houses of striking Pyrgi are decorated with whitewash patterns on top of the black, volcanic rock underneath.

Introducing Chios Island, Greece

Where is the Chios Island?

Chios is the fifth largest of the Greek islands, situated in the Aegean Sea, 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) off the Anatolian coast. The island is separated from Turkey by the Çeşme Strait. Chios is notable for its exports of mastic gum and its nickname is The mastic island. Tourist attractions include its medieval villages and the 11th-century monastery of Nea Moni, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Administratively, the island forms a separate municipality within the Chios regional unit, which is part of the North Aegean region. The principal town of the island and seat of the municipality is Chios town. Locals refer to Chios town as “Chora” literally means land or country, but usually refers to the capital or a settlement at the highest point of a Greek island).

Explore the most beautiful places in the Faroe Islands

Explore the most beautiful places in the Faroe Islands

A tiny 18-island archipelago roughly halfway between Iceland and Scotland, with nearly twice as many sheep as people, the Faroe Islands have a romantic appeal for travellers looking for a remote, back-to-nature experience. In March, the islands will be one of only two places in the world to see the total solar eclipse (the Norwegian islands of Svalbard being the other).

It’s a great reason to visit the Faroes – a magical world of waterfalls and fjords and huge bird colonies. There’s a vibrant cultural scene, too – festivals and boat races in traditional Faroese boats fill the summer months – but among the most intimate and left-field is Hoyma, a new music festival held each November, which takes place in locals’ sitting rooms. Most hotels are booked now for the eclipse, but there are still B&B and camping options: see solareclipse.fo. Flights are via Copenhagen or Oslo with Atlantic Airways.

The Faroe Islands lie roughly half way between the Shetland Islands and Iceland – so not the warmest nor sunniest place to visit! The economy is based on farming (and eating) sheep, catching fish and, when they’re unlucky enough to be passing, pilot whales are driven ashore and hacked to pieces on the beaches.

Explore the most beautiful places in the Faroe Islands

All in all, not an easy place to be veggie, even harder for a vegan like myself! And considering the islands epic reputation for foul weather, camping was never going to be the easiest of options. Welcome to the world of “extreme-endurance-holidays!”

Despite these obvious drawbacks the Faroes do have a few things in their favour; rugged and beautiful scenery and more seabirds than people. The first thing you have to do as a vegan camper is work out the Danish words for things like meat / whey / milk / eggs etc so you’ve got a fighting chance of getting suitable foods in the supermarket. Thankfully, arriving on a ferry from Scotland means you can take along a few ‘safe’ foods – rice, veggie stock powder plus dried soya mince are good staples. Don’t even think of walking into a restaurant or fast food outlet and finding something vegan although you might just get something veggie.

Once you’ve got your basketful of goods get ready to pay double the UK rates for groceries, but its a holiday, so why not! Then heave your 20kg ruc-sac down to the ferry terminal to catch a bus (but spend £1 on a timetable first!) An hour long ride will cost you about £9 one way and if you’re lucky you might get to see some of the fabulous scenery, that’s if its not raining or you’re travelling through a 3 mile long road tunnel.

Once you get off the bus your holiday really begins. You’re hopefully looking forwards to climbing a particular mountain or visiting some spectacular bird cliffs by the sea. You’ll first need to find a scrap of flat land to pitch your tent on – but all the flat land is given over to sheep farming and is privately owned, so its time to start knocking on doors and in your very fractured Faroese ask a local if you can sleep in his soggy field for a night or two. Thankfully the Faroese are for the most part very accommodating – so long as you don’t mention the traditional whale-hunt!

Explore the most beautiful places in the Faroe Islands

Once the tent is up make your way to the highest mountain peak to be stunned by the incredible view from the summit. There aren’t any footpaths or way markers as we know them in the UK so just do your best. A couple of hundred metres from the summit you hit a bank of mist. Considering that steep, knife-edge ridges are the norm in the Faroes you really don’t want to walk a ledge that’s as precarious as a tightrope in the dark with a half mile drop on one side. So you wait for the mist to clear. You sit and eat your nuts and chocolate and admire what little view you do have. The mist refuses to budge so you head back to the tent getting soaked on the way and then lie there for a few hours reading a damp paperback, all the while telling yourself you’re having fun because this is a holiday.

Faroe Islands mountainYou wait three days for the weather to improve so that you can negotiate the dangerous mountain headland and get to ‘Enniberg’, which at 750m+ are Europe’s highest sea cliffs. The mist doesn’t clear, the rain never stops, you’re running low on rice, fuel, dry books to read and sanity. The local shop is tiny and sells leg of lamb, bread that’s looks as though its made from bricks and, for some reason, bow-ties!

In the end your patience is rewarded and the weather breaks. You make a sprint up the mountain confident that Enniberg is now within your grasp! Just then a friendly but insecure sheep dog takes a liking to you. You throw a stick to buy yourself some time to do a runner and lose him but he just brings it back with a look of longing in his eyes and then begins to follow you up the mountain. You try to ignore him but he’s hot on your heels, then you consider how perilous the headland is and what would happen to the poor dog if the mist rolls back down and he gets separated from you! Will he find his own way back or end up as snack food for the gulls when he tumbles 700m down a cliff? You sit down and weigh up the options – this would be so much easier if you didn’t give a damn about animals!

In the end after much lip-chewing and head scratching you do what’s best for the dog and retreat from the mountain, taking him back to the village, hoping from there that he’ll make his own way home. Then, like an unfaithful partner the little Judas does a runner and sucks up to a new batch of holiday makers that were foolhardy enough to come to the Faroes, leaving you all alone! You look back up the mountain and the mist has returned. Then you go back to your tent and get an early night because tomorrow you have to pack up a wet tent before a six mile road walk to the next village which is the only place you can catch a bus from on a Sunday. The bus is due at 09.00 so you work out the start time!

Repeat this process for about a fortnight and you have the prefect vegan camper ’s holiday. When you get back to Torshavn, the capital, you tour the streets before boarding your ferry home and by chance spot a scrap of graffiti in local dialect. The word ‘vegan’ is sprayed onto a wall in the centre of town. Your heart is lifted – you’re not alone on these islands! Then you make your way to the ferry where you’ll share a four berth bunk with three smelly strangers and live off peanuts and crisps for the next 48 hours – god bless duty free beer!

Welcome to Porto, Portugal

Welcome to Porto, Portugal

We do love Lisbon, but Porto, Portugal’s second city, is going to be luring more visitors in 2015 as easyJet launches direct flights from Bristol, Luton and Manchester in April. Set on the banks of the Douro in the north of the country, Porto’s historic centre has been Unesco-listed since 1996 and is a picturesque mish-mash of medieval churches, cobbled lanes, pretty squares, steep steps and beautiful buildings tumbling down to the river.

The birthplace of port, it’s a must for wine lovers, and recent years have witnessed something of a cultural renaissance with galleries, restaurants and boutiques opening – the city rebranded itself last year to convey its “youthful, cosmopolitan” side. The newly opened World of Discoveries museum and theme park is worth checking out – visitors can trace the journeys of past Portuguese explorers, with boat rides recreating their epic voyages to South America, Africa and Asia. Among new accommodation options is the 1872 River House, a cute eight-bedroom B&B in the historic Ribeira district (doubles from £126, breakfast served until 1pm, book on i-escape.com).

Welcome to Porto, Portugal

Where is the Porto?

Porto is the second largest city in Portugal after Lisbon and one of the major urban areas of the Iberian peninsula. The urban area of Porto, which extends beyond the administrative limits of the city, has a population of 1.4 million (2011) in an area of 389 km2 (150 sq mi), making it the second-largest urban area in Portugal. Porto Metropolitan Area, on the other hand, includes an estimated 1.8 million people. It is recognized as a Gamma-level global city by the Globalization and World Cities (GaWC) Study Group, the only Portuguese city besides Lisbon to be recognised as a global city.

Located along the Douro river estuary in Northern Portugal, Porto is one of the oldest European centres, and its historical core was proclaimed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996. The western part of its urban area extends to the coastline of the Atlantic Ocean. Its settlement dates back many centuries, when it was an outpost of the Roman Empire. Its combined Celtic-Latin name, Portus Cale, has been referred to as the origin of the name “Portugal”, based on transliteration and oral evolution from Latin. In Portuguese, the name of the city is spelled with a definite article (“o Porto”; English: the port). Consequently, its English name evolved from a misinterpretation of the oral pronunciation and referred to as Oporto in modern literature and by many speakers.

One of Portugal’s internationally famous exports, port wine, is named for Porto, since the metropolitan area, and in particular the caves of Vila Nova de Gaia, were responsible for the packaging, transport and export of the fortified wine. In 2014, Porto was elected The Best European Destination by the Best European Destinations Agency.

Welcome to St Petersburg, former Leningrad in Russia

Welcome to St Petersburg, former Leningrad in Russia

Discover local recommendations for the best things to do in St Petersburg – for the perfect break in Russia’s second city.

Russia’s northernmost city has existed under several names – it became Petrograd in 1914 (to appear less German) and Leningrad in 1924 to honour the Soviet leader and once more became St Petersburg in 1991. Most of the five million locals, however, lovingly refer to it simply as Peter.

Russia’s second city proudly wears the remnants of its turbulent history on its sleeve; the Aurora battleship that signalled the start of the 1917 October Revolution floats poignantly on the Neva River, and Soviet emblems stand proudly from the pediments of grand 19thcentury palaces that now host vibrant and hedonistic fashion shows. Recently, local activists scuppered plans to erect a 400-meter tall Okhota Center skyscraper in place of an old Swedish-Russian fortress. However, while its inhabitants are keen to preserve Saint Petersburg’s heritage, the city continues to evolve.

Throughout the 1990s, St Petersburg was a truly European city, home to raucous parties in its historical buildings and abandoned prisons. And since the 2000s, the city has rapidly become a place of affluence and prosperity. Siberian oil, rising taxes and an influx of five million tourists per year has funded fresh waves of restoration, a new port on an artificial island and a 20-mile long dam across the Finland Gulf.

Welcome to St Petersburg, former Leningrad in Russia

In recent years a creative scene has blossomed around the city’s historical centre, bringing the pop-up galleries, art hubs and boutiques that are defining a new metropolitan style. The city’s nightlife has also flourished – Dumskaya Street is a bar hopper’s dream, with a small club on every doorstep, while Konushennaya square is home to clusters of trendy restaurants. Visitors to St Petersburg might expect its wealth of history, but are likely to be surprised to find a city in bloom where there many, many unforgettable things to do.

Museums and attractions

St Petersburg is home to an incredible number of museums – 182 in total. Some are enormous (like the Russian Museum), others are tiny (like the cosy Russian Vodka Museum), but regardless of scale it’s the State Hermitage that always has the longest queues.

The largest art museum in Russia, and one of the oldest museums in the world, the State Hermitage was founded in 1764 by Catherine The Great and now occupies six buildings and houses 350 exhibition halls. It is home to an astonishing three million pieces of art – ranging from the prehistoric and ancient Egyptian to Renaissance and Russian collections – and includes famous works by Degas, Renoir and Van Gogh.

Not far away stands the Russian Museum,which holds the largest collection of Russian art in the world and is home to the renowned Summer and Mikhajlovsky gardens. Tucked just behind the Russian Museum is the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, the eccentric architectural monument erected on the spot where Alexander II (the tsar who emancipated the serfs in Russia) was killed.

Welcome to St Petersburg, former Leningrad in Russia

For an insight into contemporary Russian art, check out the Loft Project ETAGI (once a five-storey bakery and one of the city’s original squats), which is a vast gallery space as well as a design attraction in its own right.

There is also the Erarta Museum, which opened in 2010 and now homes 2,300 works of contemporary art from more than 150 Russian artists, making it the largest private museum of its kind in Russia.

Ballet and dance

The spirit of the Soviet ballet lives on in the city of St Petersburg, and during the winter holidays you can watch a dozen different adaptations of Swan Lake. But until recently, the Mariinsky Theatre and the Alexandrinsky Theatre were the only companies to continuously breathe new life into their productions – even those (such as the Dyagilev plays or historical ballets) more hundred years old.

The Mikhajlovsky Theatre recently gained new management and has undergone an overhaul in attitude. An injection of funds has also meant that the theatre has gained Spanish contemporary ballet legend Juan Ignacio Duato Bárcia – aka Nacho Duato – as artistic director, which can only mean good things. The company has also already booked in a guest run from Chicago troupe, Hubbard Street Dance (known for their athletic mix of modern, jazz and ballet), which sets a high bar for the rest of the line-up.

Ballet and dance venue details

Alexandrinsky Theatre 6 Ostrovskogo Street. +7 812 380 8050.
Mariinsky Theatre 1 Teatralnaya Square. +7 812 326 4141.
Mikhajlovsky Theatre 1 Italjanskaya Street. +7 812 595 4305.

Black Box or History of Cold War in Berlin Wall

Black Box or History of Cold War in Berlin Wall

Information pavilion on the history of Checkpoint Charlie.

The 200 m² (2,150 ft²) of the Black Box at Checkpoint Charlie informs the public on the history of this most famous border crossing point. With the use of large-format photos and numerous media stations, not only the impact of the Berlin Wall on the history of Germany is illustrated, but also the entire international dimension of the division of both Germany and Europe will be made tangible.

The external design of the pavilion refers to the two Great Powers of those days, the Soviet Union and the USA. The black colour of the external façade stands for the Black Box – the recorder of events for posterity. The red colour of the column signifies the Soviet Union and the blue window the USA.

In 2015, it is intended to establish the Cold War Museum on this site.

A nice day in front of the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin

A nice day in front of the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin

While the only remaining city gate of Berlin formerly used to represent the separation of the city between East and West Berlin, since the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 the Brandenburg Gate has now come to symbolise German unity. In addition, this gate made of sandstone is one of the finest examples of German classicism.

Built according to the plans of Carl Gotthard Langhans from 1788 to 1791, the Brandenburg Gate is modelled on the Propylaeum of Athens’ Acropolis. On both sides, there are six Doric columns supporting the 11 meter-deep transverse beam, which divide the gate into five passages. In 1793, a quadriga designed by Johann Gottfried Schadow was placed on the gate, which points to the east in the direction of the city centre.

In light of a decision made by the Berlin Senate, since October 2002 the Brandenburg Gate has been closed for traffic, including buses and taxis.

Pariser Platz

The Pariser Platz in Berlin is considered as the city’s “best room” and indeed is also one of the most beautiful places in the capital. Around Pariser Platz, elegant town houses, embassies and the luxurious Adlon Hotel were built.

The Liebermann house and the Sommer house, recently constructed at the left and right side of the Brandenburg Gate, are meant to be conceived as twins, whose architecture is based on the historical models of the Prussian architect Friedrich August Stüler. The building of the Dresdner Bank follows the conventions of the architectural design of Pariser Platz, without degenerating into historicism.. The French Embassy and the Embassy of the United States are two additional prominent establishments to be found at this historical place.

Yalikavak: A Haven on The Turquoise Coast

Yalikavak: A Haven on The Turquoise Coast

Palm trees, pretty flowerbeds, dainty white villas, narrow cobblestoned streets, outdoor markets bursting with colour and aromatic herbs, rustic stone work, quaint little restaurants along the shore, majestic wooden sailboats, crystal-clear water, deep-blue skies, blissful tranquility, hot sunshine and a gentle sea breeze. You’d be forgiven for not guessing that this is Turkey—a rare blend of picturesque beauty and low-key living that is surely one of the Mediterranean’s best-kept secrets.

Unlike most of coastal Spain, France, Italy and Greece, the Turkish Riviera has retained its authentic personality, with almost no high-rise apartment blocks, no boom-boxes belting out loud music, no hawkers and no commercial sell-out to invading British tourists and expats. Here, on the Bodrum peninsula, Turks still rule. Many speak only rudimentary English, if any at all, but their friendliness and warmth are a language everyone understands. You want rent car? No problem; I have friend help you.

The small picturesque village of Yalikavak, on the westernmost tip of the Bodrum peninsula, is a prime example of this untainted paradise. There is none of the frantic commercialism that you’d expect in such a beautiful coastal resort, and the haunting strains of the muezzin are a regular reminder that this is a country still firmly rooted in Muslim culture and traditions. Respect, friendship and a dedication to service seem high on the list of Turkish values.

Yalikavak: A Haven on The Turquoise Coast

It is impossible to wander along the promenade without making at least half a dozen friends – restaurant owners who love to chat, cook whatever you want, and help in any way they can. They work seven days a week, 12 hours a day and still have a smile, quick wit and a warm handshake – whether you eat at their restaurant or not.

Masters at multi-tasking, the Turks are natural entrepreneurs. Like many of the restaurant owners, Halil seems to use his restaurant as a base for a whole series of other businesses—selling marble to the construction industry, finding homes for tourists and expats, renting cars and even offering to bargain on your behalf if you want a good deal on some purchase.

Omer will lend you his car ‘for a special price’ and, man to man, will give you invaluable tips on how to dress and shave for a more macho effect. While his staff serves dinner, Hazik will give you an expert deep-tissue massage, regaling you with his seemingly endless repertoire of Turkish jokes. His favourite is the one about kissing a woman’s hand—a common greeting in Turkey: “Ask a Frenchman why the Turks do this and they will reply that it’s a mark of respect for women; ask an Englishman why they do it and they’ll say that it’s a quaint romantic form of flirting; but ask the Turks why they kiss a woman’s hand and they will say, ‘Well, you have to start somewhere.’”

Yalikavak: A Haven on The Turquoise Coast

The Turks seem to have a deep appreciation for the natural environment, holding fast to the traditional style of housing, with painstakingly crafted stone work and crazy paving. The hillsides are dotted with white villas, brilliant blasts of bougainvillea spilling off their balconies and trailing lazily along wooden balustrades. At night, the only sounds in the villages are cows mooing, owls hooting and dogs barking at a passing car.

Refreshing though it is, there is a downside to this unyielding Turkishness; westerners who are used to being able to buy whatever they want, wherever they go, will not feel so well catered-to here. Many specialty products—such as gluten-free foods, natural supplements, and organic produce—are unavailable in many parts of Turkey. A ferry trip to the neighbouring Greek islands of Kos and Samos can remedy this, while providing a sobering reminder of the relatively high cost of living in Euro-currency countries. Turkey, though a hot contender for membership to the European Union, remains this side of the divide, with its own currency—the Turkish lira (roughly equivalent to CAD$0.50)—keeping prices lower than in most other European countries.

While the inefficiency and red tape involved in getting a phone line installed would try the patience of a saint, the Turks are surprisingly sophisticated in certain domains. In health care, for example, they leave other countries in the dust; most medications can be purchased for under TL10 (about CAD$4.50), and laboratory test results are delivered to you within 10 or 20 minutes—for a fraction of the price you’d pay in North America or other parts of Europe. If you need to get some bottled water or a gas tank delivered, you can expect it within 10 minutes of placing your order by phone. And if you’re worried about mosquitoes pestering you on hot, sweaty nights, you can relax in the knowledge that the local authorities regularly spray the area to keep the pesky whiners to a minimum.