A Travellerspoint blog

Paraty

A beautiful coastal town in brazil

Today we embarked on a 4 hour drive along the coastline of brazil enroute to paraty- an old colonial village by the water. It was a picturesque drive with lush green vegetation and small coastal towns with Spanish style architecture. There is lots of farmland along the way, with pineapples and sugarcane in abundance. We arrived in paraty just in time for the rain! Our hotel is quaint and a good 20 min walk from town. We took a walk of the village through cobblestone street and walked towards the main pier. It's a very small (pop of about 30,000 people) town with not much to see apart from the water. We enjoyed a nice meal consisting of seafood, a good change from meat! Tomorrow we are scheduled to take a boat ride to the various beaches weather permitting.
Paraty is a 1 night recommendation unless the weather is nice. We are enjoying some r&r before we head to iguazu falls which entails a half day of travel-6hour bus ride and2 hour flight! South America is not like traveling in Europe! Distances are greater and means of transport vary. Nonetheless a beautiful new experience in life.

Sending our love and more to come soon.....

Posted by Rits blog 17:39 Archived in Brazil Comments (3)

Rio

Exploring beyond the main sites

After seeing the main sites of rio but we wanted to look beyond the key areas of the city and the main beaches. We spent time on both copacabana and ipanema beach with the latter being more impressive. We then moved on to leblon, a slighlty more residential part of the city but with some interesting restaurants and bars. We were recommended to check out a bar called stuzzi for our first stop where we got do some good people watching. Leblon is a famous name to us foreigners as its a brand of cachaca, not sure if that's its true origin! We then went on to an area called santa theresa which ended up being a lengthy and windy journey. It was a climb up a mountain with cobblestone streets, where we arrived to spectacular views and a beautiful restaurant called appraisaval. We enjoyed our best meal in rio (apart from coconuts and fresh juices). Its definately a treck and may entail a disgruntled cabbie but its well worth it. Its a totally open air restaurant perched on the edge of a small cliff where tables are lofted at all sorts of heights. It was a great end to our evening.

Our last day in rio was spent exploring a town called barra which is supposed to have the most beautiful beaches. It was also quite a treck that ended in major monsoon rains. We found refuge in a cute restaurant across the beach waiting for the rain to subside.

This ends our journey through rio and we move on to paraty, a small coastal town. Our top tens from rio include:
Fresh fruit and juices
Beautiful beaches that coexist within a heavy urban setting
Samba at santo scenarium
Views from corcovado
Tram ride up to sugarloaf
The vibrant energy of the city at night
The grennery that resembles a rainforest in certain areas
Passionfruit caipiriniha
Drinking from giant coconuts on the beach
Seeing the macarana football stadium in prep for the next world cup

Highly recommend rio with 4 days being plenty.

More soon. Paraty will be two days followed by iguazu falls so don't anticipate great net connection.

Posted by Rits blog 04:35 Archived in Brazil Comments (2)

sf-lima-sao paolo-rio finally!

Monsoon rio

After a lengthy journey we arrived in rio ahead of schedule. We came expecting 80 degree weather and sun but were greeted by grey skys and crazy monsoon rains. Nevertheless nothing stops up from surveying a new city. From cachaca to pashion fruit, spectacular views of a limitless city, beautiful beaches and interesting bikinis we have seen it all!! We started out with a brief overview of copacabana and the history of an area of rio that once was the place to be. We enjoyed some local brazillian food with would be best described as a carnivores delight and enough food to feed a small army!
Day 2 entailed a treck to the cities infamous sites- corcovado mountain where the statue christ the redeemer is as well as a brief visit to the football stadium, reinforcing how much soccer is religion here. We then moved on to a scary tram to the top of sugarloaf mountain for a view of rio.
Samba eas next on the list where we hit up an area called lapa known for its nightlife. We were blown away by the energy and rythmn. Now we can add samba to the list of things to learn. We dabbled in caiparinhas along the way and did justice to our evening.

Rio has a lot to offer and is definately a big city. More to come but net connection is a bit spotty. Please pass the word on that the blog is alive again!

Posted by Rits blog 19:55 Archived in Brazil Comments (2)

Stockholm/Helsinki/Tallinn

The last leg of our trip

So I have not managed to write in the past few days, so will be covering off on the last portion of my trip and the last entry of my blog for now. I unfortunately am victim to the limited vacation time in the US and may not travel again for a bit!

Stockholm, Sweden was our next stop from copenhagen. In comparison a much larger city with a 'big' small city feel. We lucked out with fabulous weather the first day and decided to spend as much time as possible on the water. We took 2 boat rides around the city, 1 that took us around Stockholm, and the other which took us out to the archipelago- not realizing there were some 30,000 small islands all around stockholm. It's amazing to see how much of life here revolves around the water. It's one of the few cities in the world that the water in clean enough to swim in and can get relatively warm. We saw people just hanging out on rocks tanning, jumping into the baltic sea, enjoying various islands, kayaking, on their boats, etc. We met friends in the evening and enjoyed a nice Swedish meal and sat by the water in the evening ( the sun sets at about 11pm here!)

Stockholm offers a few interesting sites to see as well, so we tried to do those the next day when it was cold and rainy. The vasa museum is the most famous attraction of sorts- its basically a ship that was commissioned by the king in the 1600's (from what I remember) that sank 20 minutes after it set sail. Didn't really appeal to me but once we got to the museum I was rather impressed. 90 percent of what is displayed of the ship is real which was actually really cool but after an hour of being there we felt like we could do a phd on it! This is so worth it but not for more than an hour. The line to get in was crazy long and would have managed to take 1 hour in itself but fortunately I have a good travel buddy who managed to get us in!!

Helsinki, our next stop was a bit different from the last 2 nordic countries we visited. Not as eventful, not as much to see. We got our bearings, took a boat out onto the water in the evening, saw an amazing sunset, and were with great company - our friends joined us again in Helsinki.
Nothin in particular stands out as a must do here, or even a do.

Day 2 we decided to take an impromptu trip to Tallinn, Estonia- only a 1.5 hour high speed boat ride to check out a different country. The boat was awesome and very comfy and next thing you know we are in Estonia. The main attraction in Tallinn is the old forted medieval city- reminded us a bit of Dubrovnik actually. The architecture changes quite a bit here with more russian influences. The main castle was beautiful, the various churches, etc. The outskirts of the old town did not appear to be as interesting so we spent all of our time in the old city.

Overall a great way to end an epic vacation. We managed to do 12 countries which was absolutely insane but I wouldn't trade this experience for
anything. Hope you all enjoyed tid bits of our trip!

Talk to you from the west coast.

Posted by Rits blog 15:23 Archived in Sweden Comments (1)

Copenhagen

Scandanavian journey

Copenhagen was our first stop in the Nordic countries and we spent two wonderful days enjoying good weather and a totally different vibe from Poland. It's a city that runs on bicycles, something I was unfortunately unable to enjoy! The rhythm of bike traffic is incredible, they have wide lanes of their own and go at amazingly fast speeds. I even saw girls in heels cycling away!

We have friends joining us for the last leg of our trip, and copenhagen being so small, we ended up bumping into them on the street. We explored the city together the first evening and were victims to the insanely expensive cost of living here. $10 for a cup of coffee!!!! How do people survive! My dad had mentioned that it was very expensive but this I was not prepared for. Even the metro is pricey, no wonder people bike everywhere. We managed to find a relatively affordable restaurant and enjoyed our first evening in good company.

Day 2 we did some more exploring of the city- we took a beautiful boat tour which is a must do! It gave us a good orientation of the history of Copenhagen and even showed us the infamous little mermaid statue, not much of a much but had to be seen! The best part of our evening was spent at tivoli gardens- the famous amusement park for both adults and kids! It's like a classier version of Disneyland. The park itself is filled with beautiful gardens, stages for performances (we watched the symphony perform), Michelin restaurants, fun games and food stalls, and probably like 10-15 rides. The rides themselves were beautiful, with the ferris wheel being in the shape of old fashion hot air balloons! The parks lights up beautifully at night and was open until 11pm. We enjoyed the experience and were quite surprised by it.

Our hotel is also quite an interesting find- it's called the fox hotel and each room is designed by a different artist. Our room happened to have an exhibit of a tree made out of driftwood with leaves and drawings all over the walls. Our friends room was decorated with a theme similar to the movie nacho Libre for those of you who have seen it! It was hilarious! Highly recommend this place, it was something unique walking distance from everything in town.

Copenhagen has a beautiful feel to it and we are excited to experience stockholm and Helsinki next.

Posted by Rits blog 16:05 Archived in Denmark Comments (2)

Krakow-Poland

We have finished our leg of eastern Europe/ the beer belt with our last stop in krakow poland. In all honesty it felt like it came a bit out of order on our trip- we saw soo many stunning places along the way that first impressions of krakow were so-so. But over the next 48 hours it ended up surprising us in some ways. It has a tough history with having been conquered and dumped 4-5 times before becoming an independent country. Krakow in particular is a small town- a pop of about 800,000 with 20 percent being students- so it has a relatively young feel to it.

We spent the next 48 hours absorbing the culture- walking the entire old town, sampling traditional foods- perogies (dumplings filled with meat and cheese), enjoying beers of course, talking to locals, etc. On our second day we decided to take the city on through these free walking tours I have been finding in many of the cities we have visited. Again it's donation based, so in the end you give whatever you feel the guide deserved. We did 2 walking tours, each lasting 3 hours, starting at 11am with a general tour through the city if krakow, the old town, some of the key monuments including the wavel castle, st marys church, old synagogues, etc. The second tour was about the jewish history of krakow where we visited the old Jewish district, the ghetto, and schindlers factory. A lot of it focused on the history of Oscar Schindler since his factories were based in krakow and the focus of where and why speilburg filmed the movie. There is a powerful memorial where there are steel chairs throughout the main square in the jewish district symbolizing how when homes where raided, all the furniture the nazis found were placed in the middle of the square to check for any precious belongings people may have hidden under furniture. Schindlers factory itself was a bit of a disappointment, its a renovated office building now. This tour was a bit difficult to handle as it focused on the stories of the nazi invasion and a horrific period in history, but was very important to see. Today there are only 100 jewish people living in krakow. Many people visit auschweitz after krakow as it is very close by, but A and I were not sure if we could do it.

All in all we did 6 hours of walking and 10 km (approximately 5 1/2 miles if I have my conversion right) in the course of 1 day through these walking tours! We left krakow feeling like we really made the most of our time there and the tours really helped us with historical context. We left krakow with a different perspective on the city.

Posted by Rits blog 14:02 Archived in Poland Comments (1)

Berlin- good thing I am not traveling alone

A Berlin minute

So for those (5) of you readin my blog, you may have noticed my last entry from prague mentioned I was off to krakow, but it turns out the next morning I found out on our way to the airport that we were going to Berlin first. Good thing I am no traveling alone!!!

Berlin is a very large city, relative to all the other places we have visited. I believe it's a population of 3 million and something like 15 times the size of NYC! We are staying in a really fun part of the city called mitte- perfect location for walking to see the cities main sites, cafes, restaurants and bars. It reminds me a bit of the east village. Berlin has amazing vibe and energy to it, much like manhattan. We spent quite a bit of time checking out our neighborhood as we are staying in a really nice modern apartment above this cute little cafe that turns into a bar at night. As you can probably tell, I sort of love Berlin!

We have managed to do a lot in two days but it's way too large of a city to cover in such short time. Nonetheless we visited Brandenburg gate, the rechstag (parliament building), an amazing memorial to thus history of Berlin called the topography of terror, spent some time along the spree (the river that runs through Berlin), saw awesome views of the city from the radio tower, etc. The memorial and the art along the remnants of the Berlin wall were phenomenal and so powerful. There is such a rich and tumultuous history here that it is interesting ti learn about the past and experience the present in Berlin. The architecture is also quite intriguing with a strong contrast between the classical and modern since so much of it had been destroyed. While Berlin may not have the same beauty as Vienna or Prague it has a different feel to it altogether. It's a large cosmopolitan city with lots of different pockets to it.

We did make time to do some atypical things in Berlin like eat curry bratwurst (basically sausage with tomato sauce, drank beer in a bar by the water, etc. We are so sick of sausages I think I may become a veggie after this, so we decided to check out the food scene based on the advice from my sis in law. We went to an awesome vietnamese restaurant called monsieur vong in mitte that had a long line to get into but was well worth the wait. We did some window shopping along the way- Berlin seems like a great place to shop!

All in all, Berlin is a really fun city to spend time in. It's been gloomy weather here but a bit refreshing after the sweltering heat elsewhere. On to krakow tomorrow am, I confirmed that's where we are headed next!!!

Posted by Rits blog 15:56 Archived in Germany Comments (3)

Prague

Capturing the best parts of the city

Today we visited a few key areas of Prague:
Prague castle- we walked through the castle district and visited the churches, the place where Kafka lived for a period of his life, the palace, etc. We didn't have time to spend in the actual palace but felt we got a good flavor of the history yesterday on our walking tour. The walk to the palace was beautiful, crossing the famous charles bridge.

We then took a tram ( a great way to see the city as well) to petrin hill where you get great views of the city. You can take an old tram to the top of the park where there is an old ziess telescope/observatory and a structure that looks like the Eiffel tower- the views from the top were beautiful but the walk was terrifying! It made me remember that I am afraid of heights!

Our next stop was to letna park where we wanted to check out a local hang out- an area of the park that has picnic tables and sits up high on a hill overlooking the city of Prague. There is a small stand there where you can get local beer for $1! It was mostly locals from the looks of it which was refreshing from the tourist crowds around the castle. We hung out here for a bit and then pushed off to the old town- a good long walk back home. This was definately worth the treck.

It's currently thundering outside and we are packed and ready to move on to our next destination, krakow. We absolutely loved Prague and did our best to conquer it in 2 days!!!

Posted by Rits blog 13:15 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (0)

Prague

Praha

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Today was a packed agenda for our first day in Prague. We got a bit of our bearings around the old town where we are staying. It's lively and packed with tourists being that it's July.

We joined a 3 hour free walking tour I found offered by a company called Sandeman. They have free tours in many european cities and it's a great way to take in a new place- first of all it's free, you just give donations at the end, secondly it provides a really good overview of the history of a city, and lastly in my opinion there is no better way to learn about a new place than by walking it. It was quite hot but we had an incredible tour guide who was very animated, happened to be a local Czech and made it very interesting. We covered most of the old town, some of the new town- from churches, the astronomical clock in the center of the old town square, synagogues, the charles bridge, lots of Kafka monuments, communist era buildings,etc. Each and every corner we crossed was picturesque. It's relatively compact with lots of cobblestone streets, a bit daunting to walk on after a while. Tourism and beer are the main industries here it seems- apparently the average Czech drinks 160 liters of beer per year! (and that's based on a population size including children and babies- so probably much higher consumption on average per adult!). We tried the most popular beer- ursuqell pilsner- didnt care much for it.

We went to the top of the main church in the square and got great views- highly recommend taking the elevator to the top.
After a great walk through, we discovered that jazz festival is going on in prague for the next two days! It's taking place in the main old town square- a few minute walk from our hotel. It drew a huge crowd of people just hanging out listening to jazz in the open air. We joined the crowd with snacks and sat on the floor in the middle of the square- lots of fun and nice to see locals.

Prague definitely has a more lavish feel than what we saw of Slovakia. It's compact similar to Vienna with a population of about 1.5 million. The architecture varies greatly similar to that of Budapest. I think combining all of these cities has been really helpful to connect some of the dots of history.

Posted by Rits blog 14:42 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (2)

Budapest- part deux

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Woke up to a beautiful morning in Budapest, loving the proximity of our hotel to the Danube. We started off the day visiting the key sites that were of interest to us. We visited the synagogue in the Jewish area of the city- it is the second oldest synagogue outside of NYC. It's architecture is really interesting because it was built to look more like a church, in an effort to not stand out. Next we visited the central market which is a less appealing version of the grand bazaar/spice market in Istanbul. This could have been skipped over but I always like to look at fruits and veggies! A enjoyed a Hungarian delight- langoos- which is essentially a deep fried bread with all sorts of toppings, similar to a pizza. The Hungarians enjoy spice (being known for their paprika) so chilis were in abundance!!
Our next stop was the castle- we took a small old tram to the top of a hill on the buda side of the city and saw spectacular views. This was totally worth it! The castle no longer exists but there are museums, the fortress of sorts to walk around, gardens, and breathtaking views. You can easily spend a few hours here. We ended the evening with a nice boat ride down the Danube around sunset, to capture the city in another light. We sampled some goulash (pronounced gou-yash- languages and pronunciations get harder on this second half of our trip I have a feeling!) which was tasty. We enjoyed a walk down vaci utca street- one end which was pleasant with decent shops, followed by the other end which was super touristy.

Oh and we tried a local hungarian beer which we quite liked, something with a b- it will come back to me. Since we are traveling through the beer belt I figured why not do a taste test.

We loved Budapest and are curious to explore further. I'm sure we will be back here someday.

Arrived in Prague this morning- first impressions- another beautiful city- need to get more creative with my adjectives on this blog! Our hotel rocks- thanks ashna!!! Will write more once we have more than first impressions.

Posted by Rits blog 03:25 Archived in Hungary Comments (0)

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