-Taranto is the main city of its own county.
An ancient history, one of the first greek colony and, around 500 BC, one of the largest in the world, with population estimates up to 300,000 people.
Taranto is known as “The Spartan City” because it was the only colony ever founded by Sparta, in 706 BC.
Currently it’s the third largest city in continental South (not including Sicily and Sardinia).
The city is also known as the “city of two seas” because it is washed by the Ionian Sea (called Great sea) and by the vast reservoir of the ‘Little Sea’.
Taranto offers many interesting activities:
Old town tour, this part of the city is connected by two bridges (one is mobile, called ‘swing bridge’ – ponte girevole) to the land.
The bridge is opened to let the big navy boat ether to exit or enter the city depot centre.
It’s an island (not natural, though).
Currently the condition of this part of the city is not the best, for years was almost abandoned by its population.
Many buildings are in ruins, however it’s very interesting to walk from one point to another to see a genuine lower class lifestyle and conditions.
Many fishermen families still live here.
Aragonese Castle was built in the 15th century with the intention to protect the town from the Turks’ frequent raids.
The castle replaced a pre-existing fort which was deemed unfit for 15th century warfare.
Nowadays is a navy military base.
Tours in english are available too! It will be a couple of hours of interesting information about the city.
Best beer in Taranto: TABIR!
Everytime I visit the city, if I want a beer, I only go to Tabir.
This is where you get ONLY best beers available.
No commercial beers, only from small breweries and/or quality ones.
The owner is a real beer lover and expert and he’ll be happy to guide you to the best combination of drink and food (all local products!)
The streets have been completely renovated over the last years, bringing life and charm back to this city.
Since then a multitude of cafes, bars, restaurants, fashion stores have opened. On warm days almost every cafe has an outdoor seating zone in the streets, giving the city a unique cozy feeling. A beautiful hill-top castle, with a stunning view of the city and the river Danube, is one of the landmarks you should enjoy while visiting Bratislava.
The city has an airport with many low-cost flights, from the airport a public transport bus (nr. 61) will bring you to the centre in 30 minutes (ticket costs 0,90 Euro). Bratislava is also very close to famous cities like Wien (60 km far), Prague (320km far) and Budapest (200 km far), connection by bus and trains are frequents.
First of all, if you are planning to spend some day in the Slovak capital city, I would strongly recommend to stay at Hostel Blues.
It was my second time there and it gets, if possible, better and better!
Elena and Eliska are fantastic front desk staff, always smiling and willing to chat and help. All the staff is kind and friendly. Location is perfect, few minutes walking to the city centre. Kitchen is big, tidy and well equipped with all you might need for cooking. Common room is warm and relaxing, best place to get to know other travellers, the hostel organize even a blues concert once a week.
Bratislava is not only about the city. There are several places to visit just around the city:
– Devín Castle (hrad Devín) – ruins of the large castle next to the confluence of the Danube river with the Morava river. It is about 20 minutes from the SNP Bridge with bus no. 29. The place is nice for walks and there are many monuments and statues.
– Hike in the Small Carpathians mountain range. Bratislava lies on the southeast slopes of these mountains. Hiking routes are well indicated. The entire country is covered with hundreds of miles of extremely well-marked hiking trails, that especially in the national parks lead though gorgeous landscapes
The castle Červený kameň is located about 30 km north-east of Bratislava; it can be reached by bus from Mlynske Nivy bus terminal.
Slovak are proud of their traditions and cuisine is part of it. Local specialties mostly involves (smoked) meat, cheese, potatoes and flour. Soups are quite common either as an appetizer or as a main dish.
Bryndzové halušky, similar to small dumplings with sheep’s cheese and topped with pieces of meat, is the national dish of Slovakia and are recommended.
Another specialty in Bratislava (and Slovakia) is treska. It is a cold salad made of Codfish with mayonnaise and vegetables like onions and carrots. Treska tastes very good with rolls.
For a great typical dinner, the two must to visit restaurants are: ‘Slovak pub’ and the ‘Bratislava flag ship restaurant‘. the second one has wonderful interiors.
Bratislava has a popular club, HC Slovan Bratislava and locals are very proud of it. The club plays the international Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), the second most important hochey competition in the world, after the northern american/canadian one.
The ice hockey arena (official name is Ondrej Nepela Arena, known in slovak as Zimný štadión Ondreja Nepelu, and nowadays as Slovnaft Arena) is brand new, rebuilt and reconstructed to host the ice hockey world competition in 2011, is full of bars, restaurants and other premises. It is easily reachable by public transportation.
Finally, suggesting to drink beer would be to easy 🙂
I will try, instead, to suggest two ‘off the beaten track’ places:
–Kelion. Is a tea room, not only. It is in a quiet city area, far from traffic and noise, in a nice family house. If you want a proper relax and cosy atmosphere it is the place for you!
–Bistro St. German. Is a cafe’ nearby the Hostel Blues. Good food and organic drinks available. Beautiful interiors. Great to chill-out. No smoking inside!
Continuing from here.
Where was I?
Ah yes, the italian dinner (badly managed) and the Polish one (well managed). After a couple of relaxing days spent at the beach, it was time to explore the area a little more. By walking I reached Sopot, the second of the three cities.
From the Olive hostel could be about 4/5 km, however it is a beautiful walk, beside the beach, there is’ a pedestrian and bicycle path, very nice, you can admire beautiful holiday homes, restaurants, camping sites, all under a fresh vegetation for most of the entire path.
Once in Sopot I was a little disappointed, too touristy and ‘plastic’ location. Even to enter the famous pier you have to pay, I leave it to the tourists this privilege, then I headed to the center, to see the famous house built with the unique ‘drunken’ effect , but again another disappointment here, the trees at the front impede the full view, moreover the signs of the bar and restaurants chains are too invasive. I’ve had enough of Sopot and its ‘high-class’ tourism, with many Germans and Scandinavians, in addition to the rich Polish, coming here. Better my working class favorite beach.
The whole way there by the seashore is a nice walk. For lunch I decided to try the famous ‘milk bar’ Kmar, located a few hundred meters from the Olive hostel where I am staying. I knew that the only spoken language there was Polish, however I was counting on my previous experiences in many other bar mlekzny, so I got in, stay in line, take my tray and wait to order what I know. When the lady came to serve me I replied what I familiar within the Polish food specialties, unfortunately, to my surprise, the lady told me something, in Polish, I did not expect that our conversation would continue, just guessing I made a wrong order, I tried to change it, but the lady insisted to tell me something, pointing to the end the row. Fortunately, a young Polish man came to soccur me, explaining, in English, that I could order at pay desk, she was there to take only orders for soups. Good to know! Once paid I had to wait for the food to get ready and announced, to tell the truth, it took a way too much time, I was not the only one to wait for a long time. Anyway, I always recommend the milk bar, they are good and super cheap, but having someone who speaks Polish is almost necessary.
Once in the hostel I met a guy, newer, just arrived, he told me his sad adventure on the overnight train from Wroclaw, while he was sleeping, someone stole his backpack with laptop and money. He came to Gdansk to work as a lighting technician, for concerts, events and evenings, as the Baltic coast in summer has a lot to offer. I decide to invite him to drink a beer in the evening. Let’s go to Gdansk! He leads me, first to see a small hill behind the town, from where you can see all the city and the night lights.
Then we went to a pub owned by a friend of him, where you can find great beers, not the usual commercial ones. The Palupka. In the same street where this pub is located, there are different bars, in one a band was playing jazz, so we took a sit outside, on the sidewalk, listening to nice music and get to know with a Polish guy who had the same idea, we started to exchange travel considerations about the cities we had seen and so on, sharing experiences. Always nice to meet someone who loves to travel.
After a couple of beers, I decided to return to the hostel, the next day I want to go for a little hike and I have to wake up early. The usual suburban train is always on duty, even at night, the tickets can be bought from the conductor, at the head coach of the train. My partner prefers to stay outside, I saw him again the next morning, getting back, completely drunk and with a disgusting stain on the back of the pants, but you know, the Poles drink a lot …
As usual, I do not enter the churches, my position is simple, I have no respect for such institution, so I do not enter into any religious building of any religion.
The cathedral is located in a beautiful park, too bad it has to be the day of sh.t, because while I was walking among the trees I felt something on my shoulder.
Yes, one of the many pigeons decided to leave me a memory of its existance …
I hate people like that feed them!!
We had a nice time, telling ourselves something about our lifes and we spend a lovely afternoon, we sawe the area where solidarnosc and the protests against the Communist regime began, with Lech Walesa had his speech to the Polish workers and started his political career.
The Road of FREEDOM is an important sight of Gdansk, here all started.
We ended the evening in a quiet cafe, where we had a delicious apple pie. Later I continued to visit Gdansk, fascinated by the colors, the people around me, the bank of the river Motlawa, cobbled streets, beautiful palaces and the impressive Mariacka, the street with the amber shops.
I went there by train, it is perfect for a day trip. From Gdansk to Gdynia, the third of the town, there you catch a regional (ICs costs too much and the journey takes only about ten minutes less), return ticket is less than 10 €.
The train is full of people that go on vacation on this peninsula, it was raining and the view was not the best, but I could appreciate the journey, on the one side, the right, I could see the baltic sea, while on the left one a beautiful pine forest and then you can see the other side of the sea, all will be two hundred metres wide, unique and evocative as a place.
In HEL to the rain becomes more intense, I had time to visit the beach where they put a focarium, few stands for selling souvenirs and such, the marina, the port and the city centre, I liked the cosy houses, very typical. In one of them, turned into a restaurant, I stopped by to eat something warm and have a shelter from the infamous time. I’ve got the train back in a couple of hours, desist from doing any coast to coast hiking, it rain ‘cats and dogs’, too much for me and sometime I prefer to leave behind some outstanding experience, those are good excuses to return somewhere.
The train fills up quickly, the rain has advised many to end the visit. I still have a day to spend on the baltic sea, unfortunately the rain but the company seems to want me to do on Sunday afternoon, the sky opens up and gives way to a bright sun, I decided to go at the beach to spend the last hours of this beautiful tour in northern Poland . I think I will return here. The next morning I get back on the road, towards …
Continua da qui.
Dove ero rimasto? Ah si, la cena italiana (riuscita male) e quella polacca (riuscita bene). Dopo un paio di giornate di relax in spiaggia, inizio a farmi venir voglia di esplorare un poco la zona. A piedi raggiungo Sopot, la seconda delle tre citta’. Dall’ostello saranno circa 4/5 km, che sono una bellissima passeggiata, fiancheggiando la spiaggia, c’e’ un percorso pedonale e ciclabile, molto bello, si ammirano belle case da villeggiatura, ristoranti, campeggi, il tutto sotto una fresca vegetazione per lunghi tratti.
Una volta a Sopot resto un poco deluso, troppo turistica e ‘plastificata’. Addirittura per accedere al famoso molo si deve pagare, lascio ai turisti pensionati questo privilegio, mi dirigo verso il centro, a vedere la famosa casa costruita con effetto ‘ubriacatura’, anche qui delusione, gli alberi davanti impediscono la visione completa, in piu’ le insegne delle catene di bar e ristoranti sono troppo invasive. Ne ho abbastanza di Sopot e del suo turismo di ‘alto bordo’, molti tedeschi e scandinavi, oltre ai polacchi ricchi, vengono qui.
Rientro alla mia spiaggia preferita, decidendo di farmela via battigia. A pranzo decido di provare il famoso ‘milk bar’ Kmar, che si trova a poche centinaia di metri dal Olive hostel dove alloggio. Sapevo che l’unica lingua parlata fosse il polacco, ma contavo nella mia esperienza in altri bar mlekzny, quindi mi sono messo in fila, ho preso il mio vassio e quando la signora mi ha chiesto cosa volevo ho risposto con il cibo polacco che conoscevo, purtroppo, per mia sorpresa, la signora mi ha detto qualcosa, in polacco, non mi aspettavo che la nostra conversazione continuasse e quindo non capivo cosa stesse succedendo, ho provato a cambiare ordinazione, ma la signora insiste a dirmi qualcosa, indicandomi la fine della fila. Per fortuna un giovane polacco mi ha dato una mano, spiegandomi, in inglese, che potevo ordinare alla cassa, li era solo per le zuppe. Quindi arrivo a pagare, ordino e aspetto seduto che preparino quanto ho chiesto, impiegano un poco, a dire la verita’, divento nervoso, scopro di non essere il solo ad attendere da tanto per quanto richiesto. In definitiva, consiglio sempre i milk bar, sono buoni e super economici, ma avere qualcuno che parli polacco a portata di mano e’ quasi necessario.
Una volta in ostello faccio conoscenza con un ragazzo appena arrivato, mi racconta la sua triste avventura, sul treno notturno da Wroclaw, mentre dormiva, gli hanno rubato lo zaino con il laptop ed i soldi. Era venuto a Gdansk per lavorare, come tecnico delle luci, a concerti, eventi e serate, visto che la costa baltica in estate ha moltissimo da offrire. Decido di invitarlo a bersi una birra, in serata. Andiamo a Gdansk, mi porta a vedere una piccola collina alle spalle della citta’, da dove si possono ammirare tutti i colori e le luci notturne.
Poi andiamo in un pub di un suo amico, dove si possono trovare ottime birre non commerciali. Il Palupka. Nella stessa strada ci sono diversi locali, in uno suonano jazz, ci fermiamo a sedere sul marciapiede ascoltando bella musica e facendo conoscenza con un polacco con il quale scambio considerazioni sui viaggi e sulle citta’ viste, mi racconta della sua esperienza a Napoli ed io gli dico cosa penso della Polonia. Sempre bello incontrare qualcuno che ama viaggiare.
Dopo un paio di birre, decido di rientrare in ostello, il giorno dopo voglio andare a fare una piccola escursione e devo svegliarmi presto, rientro in ostello con il solito treno metropolitano. Che e’ sempre in servizio, anche la notte, il biglietto si puo’ comprare dal capotreno, al vagone di testa del convoglio. Il mio compagno di ostello preferisce rimanere, lo rivedro’ rientrare la mattina seguente, completamente sbronzo e con una macchia inquietante sul retro dei pantaloni, ma si sa, i polacchi bevono molto …
Vado a vedere la cattedrale di Oliwa, a breve dustanza dal ostello, al suo interno ha uno degli organi piu’ grandi in Polonia, come al solito, non entro nelle chiese, la mia posizione e’ semplice, non ho rispetto per l’istituzione chiesa, per cui non entro dentro alcun edificio religioso, di qualsiasi religione, per intenderci, spero che chi mi legge sia contro la mafia e che non entrerebbe mai in una casa di un mafioso …
La cattedrale si trova in un bellissimo parco, peccato che deve essere la giornata delle ca..te, visto che mentre cammino tra gli alberi sento qualcosa sulla mia spalla. Si, uno dei tanti piccioni ha deciso di lasciarmi un ricordo … come odio la gente che gli da anche da mangiare!!!!
Nel pomeriggio incontro una ragazza a Gdansk, contattata tramite couchsurfing, Karolina, mi fa vedere il posto dove vive, anche se ultimamente ha vissuto in viaggio, lavorando in una nave da crociera.
Ci raccontiamo qualcosa delle nostre vite e trascorriamo un bel pomeriggio, mi fa vedere la zona dove solidarnosc e le proteste contro il regime comunista ebbero inizio, con Lech Walesa ed il suo discorso ai lavoratori polacchi. Il Road of FREEDOM.
Finiamo la serata in un tranquillo cafe, dove mangiamo una squisita torta alle mele. Ci salutiamo ed io continuo a girare per Gdansk, affascinato dai colori, dalla gente. Ritorno a visitare la riva del fiume Motlawa, le strade ciottolate, i bei palazzi e la suggestiva Mariacka, la via con le botteghe di ambra.
Il giorno seguente vado a Hel! No, non sto imprecando, si tratta di un paesino alla fine di un lembo di terra a pochi km da Gdansk, una penisola strettissima, la percorro in treno. Da Gdansk a Gdynia, la terza delle citta’, da li prendo un regionale (gli IC contano troppo ed impiegano solo una decina di minuti in meno), andata e ritorno a meno di 10 euro. Il treno si riempie di persone che vanno in vacanza su questa penisola, piove e la vista non e’ delle migliori, ma posso apprezzare il viaggio, da una parte, la destra, vedo il mar baltico, mentre sulla sinistra una bella pineta e poi si intravede l’altra sponda del mare, il tutto saranno duecento metri di larghezza, davvero unico e suggestivo come luogo.
Ad HEL la pioggia si fa piu’ intensa, faccio in tempo a visitare la spiaggia dove hanno messo un focarium, le bancarelle che vendono oggetti e souvenir, il porticciolo e le brevi vie del centro, mi piacciono le abitazioni, molto tipiche. In una di queste adibita a ristorantino, mi fermo a mangiare qualcosa di caldo e ripararmi dal tempo infame. Ho il treno di ritorno in un paio d’ore, desisto dal fare un coast to coast, piove troppo e preferisco lasciarmi alle spalle qualche esperienza in sospeso, sono ottime scuse per ritornare in qualche posto.
Il treno si riempie subito, la pioggia ha consigliato i tanti alla scoperta di questo bel posto, di porsi al riparo. Mi rimane ancora un giorno da trascorrere sul mar baltico, sfortunatamente la pioggia sembra volermi fare compagnia ma nel pomeriggio della domenica il cielo si apre e lascia spazio ad un bel sole, vado in spiaggiaa trascorrere le ultime ore di questa bel tour nel nord della Polonia. Credo che ritornero’ da queste parti. Il mattino seguente mi rimetto in viaggio, verso …