Two long days in Aceh, Sumatra

Are we there yet? We had our first glimpse of Indonesia on our first trip to the Far East and we started with one of the less popular islands, Sumatra. We only had 12 days, barely enough to make quick stops at four distinct destinations: a volcanic lake, the top of an active volcano, the bustling capital of Aceh and a real tropical paradise, the Island of Weh. More pages from an old travel diary… Tuesday 11th July 2000 It’s Tuesday today, the first day of a long and not the least pleasant journey. The entire trip can be divided …

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Trouble in Sulawesi

Arriving at the land of Torajas. Rantepao, Sulawesi For twenty years I kept diaries of all of our travels before I switched to using a computer. So now I have hundreds of pages full of experienced, good and not so good. I’ll randomly pick a day each time and add a photo or two. And I hope some of you guys will also find it interesting to read… Wednesday 25th July 2001 It was a day we basically spent doing nothing but lazing. Well, OK, we took some breaks when it got really boring. The bus pulls in at Rantepao …

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Day trek to the Zawrat, High Tatras

A challenging day trek crossing the Eagle’s Path in the Polish High Tatras Starting point: Five Lakes Valley Refuge (1673 m) Highest point: Zawrat Pass (2158 m) Destination: Murowaniec Refuge (1500 m) Total distance: ~8 km Net duration: 3 h (highly dependent on the weather and your fitness) Difficulty: medium-hard   Thanks to the network of high mountain refuges in the Polish High Tatras, you can easily make shorter or longer treks between the valleys and ridges. As I mentioned earlier, most of the hiking trails are in use on this side of the border though you definitely need proper …

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A winter trek in the High Tatras

Medium to hard winter hike in the High Tatras Starting point: Palenica Białczańska (car park) Destination: Szpyglasowy Wierch, High Tatras (2172 m) Total distance: ~20 km Net duration: 7-8 h (highly dependent on the weather and your fitness) (The map shows our second day when we hiked up Szpyglasowy Wierch from the mountain refuge and then descended back to the car park) The High Tatras The High Tatras are the highest section of the Carpathian Mountains and the world’s smallest high mountain range. Its full area belongs to national parks on the two sides of the border. Only one third …

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Vintage cars and crusader castles in Syria

After visiting the southern and eastern parts of Syria, let me share with you the experiences we had along the coast and the around the mountains west of Damascus. Vintage cars in active use, hitching a tractor and the depths of Syrian bureaucracy. Plus the photos. The port of Syria As we looked out of the train from Aleppo to Latakia, we noticed how the landscape turned from shades of brown to green. There were farmlands and even forests near the Mediterranean coast. Latakia itself is a sizeable city, the most important port of Syria. We walked a bit by …

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Java highlights

As I read the worrying news about the earthquake on Java, I remembered the first time we set foot on this magical island. It was our second visit to Indonesia. We were eager to discover a second island after Sumatra and so we spent around two weeks on volcanoes, beaches and in cities before we took the ferry to Bali. This is a just a small selection of photos and the most memorable memories. Monkey terror in Pangandaran Pangandaran is a small town on the south coast of Java. It is famous for two things: its superb surf and the …

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Palmyra to Aleppo as we saw it

In the second part of this nostalgic throwback to the better days of Syria, I’ll talk about the experiences we had in the central and eastern part of the country back in 2002. We spent a few days in Palmyra and then an afternoon in Deir ez-Zor. Finally we took a train to Aleppo, although we almost ended up somewhere near the Iraqi border… Palmyra The ancient city of the Palmyrenes was already prospering 2 millennia ago and became an important regional centre under Roman rule. It is regularly mentioned among the wonders of the world due to the extensive …

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Southern Syria before the war

My then pregnant wife and I spent a little more than two weeks in Syria back in 2002. I have been treasuring these photos and memories since then. In this and the upcoming posts I’ll try to show you how inviting and calm this country was before it fell prey to the greed of local and international powers. This first part is about Southern Syria. Bosra, a hidden gem in Southern Syria We arrived in Southern Syria by road from Jordania. We flew to Amman, the Jordanian capital. First we wanted see Syria to then return to its southern neighbour …

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Free tapas and gorgeous setting: Cuenca

You have only a few days to spend outside the Spanish capital? You’ve had enough of the noise and smog of Madrid? Or you’d like to experience the Andalusian tradition of free tapas without traveling hours to the South? Check out Cuenca. As we admire the dramatic setting of the old town, it’s hard to understand how the ancient Iberians and even the Romans could overlook this place. It was the Arabs who built the first fort between the two rivers and called the town Kunka. It remained in Muslim hands for centuries before it was taken by the Spanish. …

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The French Way – 10 tips to prepare for your pilgrimage

El Camino Francés, or the French Way, is a centuries old pilgrimage route that takes you from the French side of the Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela. The French Way is only one alternative route of El Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James) but definitely the most popular and best known one. In recent years it has been described and promoted in a number of books and films and thousands of people walk (or cycle) the roughly 800 km. Although it is usually described as a journey to take in one go in about a month, this is …

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