Travel

  • A wander around the old town of Zadar in Croatia

    After visiting the capital of Croatia, Zagreb, for a day we headed to Zadar for a few days on the beach. I say beach but the Croatian coast is mostly rocks. It is a beautiful coastline but not sandcastle compliant.

    Between Zagreb and Zadar is an incredible mountain range that helped keep the Italians out of mainland Croatia when they invaded during WW1. The Italians took the coastline from Zadar down to Kotor with Split in the middle. I’ve never been to Kotor but Split and Zadar are beautiful.

    The floor in Zadar is marble and incredibly slippy. Beautiful but slippy as anything. If you visit Zadar try the local Maraschino by Zadarski. You can see the old factory from the old town. It is delicious. We were given a free glass with every meal. Loved it.

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  • The people of Zagreb in Croatia

    In 2012 we spent an afternoon walking around the Old Town of Zagreb which is the capital of Croatia. The old town is architecturally wonderful and at the end of our walk was a market. No-one seemed to mind me taking photos and it’s a shame there was a language barrier. I would have liked to have known more about Zagreb from people who have lived and worked there for a long time.

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  • Architectural walk around the old town of Zagreb

    The Old Town in Zagreb is filled with 17th and 18th century architecture. You can happily walk it in an afternoon and is worth doing. We started at the funicular and ended at the Central Square not far from the cathedral.

    There are lots of cafes and bars but it never feels overcrowded. At least not when we were there in September 2012.

    St Mark’s Square is beautiful. A wide open space with a proud church in the middle. The church was built in the 13th century but the rooftop was added later in 1880. The tiles depict two Coats of Arms. The Coat of Arms for the Kingdom of Croatia, Slavonia and Dalmatia (left) and the other represents the city of Zagreb (right).

    The Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the end of the walk was built in the 11th. I only wish my little Fuji X100 had a wider lens to get the entire building in. The spires are fantastic and can be seen from various points in the old town.

    We only had an afternoon in Zagreb. It was our link between Budapest and Zadar. This was a lovely walk. I’m glad we got to see a bit of the city.


  • Budapest Baths

    In 2012 my wife and I visited the Szechenyi Baths in Budapest. I say baths but think leisure pools. Space to swim or to sit. We visited the most popular of them, which in September 2012, was not packed out to cause me any anxiety.

    Apparently a wonderful thing to do is go in the winter when it snows. You can sit in a warm pool and watch the snow fall. Sounds lovely.

    We took the train and I noticed the yellow / green colour scheme that I had been picking up on during our time in Budapest. Arriving at the baths and again yellow and green. Maybe it was just me?

    It was a surreal experience as there were a lot of men with expensive, Leica, cameras. Who takes a Leica or a Canon 5D to the pool? Just stuff a sock down there.

    Inside there was an assortment of temperatures to experience. An ice bath which I skipped and a few saunas at various temperatures. I found the saunas interesting but disturbing. It was hard to catch you breath some times. The air was so dense it was easy to become distressed in there. I did get used to it after a couple of minutes. Enough to enjoy the experience.

    I would like to revisit these baths now I’m more of a swimmer assuming there are quiet hours. I’m not sure I’d appreciate a relaxing queue in the pool.

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  • 2012 – Budapest views

    It’s day 3 of our stay in Budapest. I’m happy I can eat food and we wander. It is another very hot day.

    Our wander takes us around the city seeing new and interesting architecture. Budapest architecture has interesting pastel style colours to it. There’s a definite trend of yellow and green in the city.

    I spot an interesting looking woman and stop to take her picture. I don’t speak Hungarian but I am able to gesture that I would like to take her photo and she is delighted. Being a photographer is an incredible thing some times. This little box around my neck helps me stay curious and allows me to connect with people I would never normally connect with.

    We venture down to the River Danube. Europe’s second largest river. Incredibly we see a coach casually floating down it. A coach. A proper Megabus style coach. We thought maybe it had some how become stuck there? Turns out it’s a tourist trip on a modified coach. Looked worrying from our perspective. Unfortunately with only a fixed 35mm lens on my camera I did not get a good photo of that.

    We stop for food in a cafe then head off to Margaret Island in the middle of the Danube. Home to a swimming pool designed by Budapest’s first female architect. It’s a shame we didn’t plan the trip to find her work. Next time. Always good to have reasons to revisit a place.

    After sunset we stopped by the parliament building for a quick photo. Wonderful architecture. We didn’t stop long as every single light source was buzzing with giant insects. I have no idea what they were but they were everywhere.

    Ben met us on the other side of the Danube and we went for another Kert crawl. This time we ended up on top of a Spar. An actual Spar. The Spar was at the bottom of a multi-storey car park and the Kert was on the top level. Very surreal having a beer next to a giant Spar sign.

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  • 2012 – A full day in Budapest

    Budapest was hot. I sticky kind of hot as if you were a melted plastic toy covered in cat fluff. Our British friend Ben took us for a walk around the city. Nowhere in specific. A general wander that took in a few sights with no real pressure to be anywhere. It was nice. Hot, but nice to wander.

    This was the day when I first connected with beer. We had been walking for a few hours. Did I mention it was hot? There was a decent enough looking bar with outdoor seating allowing us to people watch so we stopped there. Ben went in to order and came back with a few pints in big chunky glasses with a nice handle on. A very satisfying glass to hold. We drank the beer. It was incredible. Refreshing. Cooling. It was the best thing I had ever drank. What was it? Tuborg. Absolutely nothing special if you spoke with a bearded beer boffin. In the years since I have had vastly superior and more complex drinks but I still hold a place in my heart for Tuborg. Oh sure I had had beer before now but for some reason it all clicked into place on this day.

    The hour was late and we walked around the city at sunset. Beautiful. The architectural style of numerous buildings reminded me of home. I could have been in Manchester or Liverpool.

    We met up with Ben’s wife and went for tea. I was apprehensive as I’m not great with food. Sensory issues relating to taste and texture. I had no knowledge of Hungarian food and assumed it was spicy for some reason. Ben ordered a mixed grill as it seemed like a good way to try things without any pressure. When it arrived they walked us through the huge plate.

    • Grilled chicken – no spices
    • Meatballs – no sauce or spices just meat balls
    • Sausage – no spices just good meat
    • Burgers – no spices or sauce just good meat
    • Salad – you know, salad like
    • Chips – no sauce just chips

    Essentially there was round meat, flat meat and long meat with a side of abstract meat.

    Huh? People enjoy food like I do? They enjoy the simple flavours not because they have sensory issues but because they enjoy the flavours. Europe was once again comforting me and telling me that all those times people in the UK laughed at me for being weird with food was simply because I had different tastes. Instead of exploring those differences I was an outcast. Yet in Europe I was welcomed and rewarded for my lifestyle.

    stops for a minute to cry over Brexit Why are we closing ourselves off to difference? breathes

    Anyway. We had a fantastic meal and a truly fantastic day. My anxiety from yesterday had subsided and I was relaxing in to the Hungarian lifestyle.

    Our evening was spent exploring a few kerts of Budapest. Kerts are basically pop-up bars in ruined spaces filled with an assortment of garden furniture and a place to serve beer. They are there one day and possibly gone the next. Another will appear down the road so there’s no crying over spilt milkshake IPA. Back in 2012 the UK didn’t really have kerts. We have slowly developed them I think. Craft bars with that rustic wooden feel. The lack of polish is the polish. As we had had a big day we only visited a couple. We would have a big tour on another night.

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  • 2012 – Budapest

    Arriving in Budapest in late August and it was hot. Really really hot. We met my wife’s friend there and he lead us to our apartment for the week. It was my first time staying somewhere that wasn’t a hotel and I was a bit nervous. Where does food come from in the morning? (Spoiler: I didn’t die).

    Walking through the streets of Budapest and I was anxious. I think it was general anxiety for being in a new place. There was a language barrier that was more complicated than normal. The words seemed unpronounceable in comparison to French or Spanish. Admittedly I studied French and Spanish in school so I had a basic understanding to fall back on. Hungarian was completely foreign to me. I was anxious. Plus it was late and getting dark.

    We spent the evening at Ben’s apartment learning about the city and what it was like to live there. Across the road there was a little shop that sold foreign food including industry standard Walkers shortbread. I felt a little less anxious.


  • 2012 – The Return to Paris – Part Deux

    A full day to wander around Paris before leaving for the sleeper train to Budapest. This was my first real test of the new Fuji X100 and it was a joy to use. I felt like a proper street photographer using a Leica. It’s easy to be energised by a new camera and a city to explore so I needed to properly test the camera to move past that initial excitement and decide whether it was a good camera or not.

    Our first stop was at Montparnasse Tower. This is the best view you can get of Paris because it includes everything you want to look at. You can see the Eiffel Tower, Sacre-Coeur and Notre Dame. I didn’t take a big camera on this trip. Only the X100 so I could really test it out. I didn’t want to fall back on a big camera so I had to take some photos through the tourist telescope device.

    We grabbed some eclairs, choc for me and coffee for my wife, and wandered to the Arc de Triomphe to get a close up view of it. Not something we’ve done in the past. I never knew you could get up close and wander around it. I thought it was an arch on a roundabout but there’s a lot to take in.

    We ended the day with a late lunch at Amelie’s cafe before heading to the train station. The cafe is great because it could be an overpriced tourist trap but its not. It’s a decent little cafe that is never too busy. I genuinely enjoy every visit. It’s become a tradition for my wife and I just as our evening meal is usually at Refuges des Fondu.

    It was a busy but relaxed day. I was in love with the camera.

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  • 2012 – The Return to Paris

    2010 was my first trip to Paris where I fell in love with the architecture and simple food I enjoyed. 2011 was a flying visit on the way back from Valencia. In 2012 we took another flying visit on the start of a 3 week European tour as happy Europeans with our European passport that let us freely move around European. Le sigh.

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