Thursday, 25 March 2010

Interesting facts about Vatican City

A walk to Vatican City
  • The total land area of the state is  0.44 square km 
  • It is monarchical and ruled by whoever becomes the Bishop of Rome, that is the Pope who is elected.
  • The economy is dependent on printing industry, production of coins, postage stamps and financial activities plus tourism. It is absolutely non-commercial and the economy is largely supported by the annual tax collected from the Roman Catholic dioceses all over the world. e.
  • There is no agricultural activity.
  • 100% literate population and the languages spoken are Latin, Italian, French and English.
  • The ethnic groups that reside in the state are Italians, Swiss and many other nationalities from all over the world.
  • It is a landlocked country so no coastline.
  • No natural hazards to Vatican City
  • All area is urban and total population is about 932. The growth rate of population is approximately 1.15%.
  • There are not many roadways; most of them are only streets and lanes.
  • Railways can traverse a maximum of 0.86 km.
  • Since it is a small state with a small population the crime rate is much higher than Italy and approximately 90% of the cases remain unsolved.
  • The transport and communication system of Vatican City is well developed.

Part of St Peter´s Basilica

As for small country, nothing much to say, but a lot of museums to see. At least for me, for the sake of art.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Ciao bella (part 2)

Rome is big to be explored in short time. According to the tour guide book that we received from the hotel, it is advisable to spend 16 days to indulge in the history, culture and beauty of Rome as a tourist. Each day will take to different route with different theme. 16 DAYS!

Piazza Navona

Leon Statue, Plaza de Papolo

 Arc of Septimius Severus(right

Spanish steps - another landmark of runaway in ANTM

Basillica San Giovanni in Laterano

Piazza della Republica

Inside the Colosseo

Arc of Constantine, seen from inside Colosseo

Garden at Palatino

Foro Romano (the Roman Forum) seen from Palatino Hill. The road was once used by all the knights after coming back from war. They marched with all the treasures and slaves to the forum and presented it to the king.

That is why it is recommended for a 16 day visit.  A lot of places to go, even just for the sake of sight seeing.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Ciao bella (part 1)

This time I have to write something shorter. I know it is tiring to read such a long winding words of mine, so just view the pictures

Rome is beautiful and historical. Besides good food, the people are friendly and mostly they love children. Most tourists attractions are in walking distance but it covers such a wide area. Once you start, you will be far away from the starting point, even tough the route is planned in circular. Oh ya, souvenirs are cheap, so buy everything you want, it is worth!

Colesseo or Colosseum

Arc of Constantine

Watching a brass band at the outer side of Hallway of triumph

Modern gladiator practicing their fighting skill at Circus Maximus

Victor Emmanuel Monument or they translate it as the tomb of no name soldier

In front of the Pantheon

The back of Pantheon

Temple of Hadrian

Climbing up to Palazzo Venezia

Temple of Hercules Victor, Forum Boarium

Castel Sant´Angelo

Palazzo di Guistiza (Palace of Justice)

Theater of Marcellus

Column of Marcus Aurelius

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Strike, friendly people and ghostly hotel

 *Experience of a friend on her stay in one hotel in Athens (Edited)* 

There is a hotel named Boston in Athens, located near the Central Station. It is old, very old. I chosed that hotel because it was the first hotel I saw when I arrived from Istanbul via Thessaloniki (north part of Greece) and it was early in the morning.  I traveled the whole day. I was worn out and extremely tired. Furthermore that it is next to the main road. 

That old man (..I remember he ´did´ look like that... ).. bold head, stared directly into your eyes... as if passing through our body. He was the receptionist, had a very weird complexion. It was June and the old man  was wearing white thin shirt. I remembered well that he never stayed at the counter and I needed to press the bell. Everytime I went in or out, the bell rang without nobody pressing it. I remembered the key holders, all were hooks just like the old time but out of many hooks, only two keys were hang. Back in my mind (during that time).- WOW, it is full house! The place must be good then. Based on the key hooks it should have 30 rooms more or less. Not bad for such a small hotel (from outside). 

I got the first room- Room No 1, which was on the first floor, exactly facing the spiral staircase. It was cheap at that time. The only disadvantage, no en-suite shower and toilet. These are outside, and its structure is more or less like toilets for dormitory. I recalled,  when I wanted to take a shower (shared men-women),  I saw a middle-age guy was brushing his teeth at the sink. Try to imagine - it is like an army barracks shower... He didn´t look up to the mirror in front of him. He just let the water  run  and his face looked down to the sink. I took a super-speed shower. I was scared as even at 1000 nobody was around and the first person I saw was this ´guy´. I finished my shower, and he was STILL THERE brushing his teeth facing down!!! I went quickly back to my room. Weird plus spooky. 

My room was HUGE compared to other room that the old-man at the reception showed me earlier. The price for each room were the same at that time. He assisted me upstairs. I found it was strange because in my room, there were 3 big mirrors that whenever a person standing in the middle of the room, then you can see your body from all angle. A kind of scary. Since I have paid nights in advance (the old man insisted that I need to pay all at once), then I have to be STRONG. Luckily I have my 'Yaasin' so I read it first. Yet the spookiness remained.

Still I had to do my errands. I washed my clothes at noon.  Went out for sight seeing. The reception old-man told me that I can hang them upstairs on rooftop. I went climbing the old spiral stairs and at the rooftop, I saw there was a box-like house.. very small with tiny door and windows. Erm.. what kind of hotel having such an extra room for renting like this? It looked like a storage room but can fit with one single bed. There were clothes hanger but no clothes were hang except mine. I told myself that I will pick them up at night, once I am back from dinner etc etc.. which I DID! 

It was nearly 12.00 midnight, when I walked to the second floor, it was always dark (no lights), no movements, so silent. On the way up, at the stairs I saw a lady with long dark hair, wearing a pure black dress covered up her shoes. She was holding a candle. It caught me by surprise because I didn´t hear her footsteps-shoes. The stairs are made of wood and every single step a person make will make a lot of sounds.  It would be impossible to tolerate that. I stopped and looked at her as she passed by next to me. She looked weird and I felt a very cool-eerie-breeze brushed my shoulder. I tried to looked down (as she went down the spiral stairs)... but she was a kind of ´gone´. At that point, I realized, that lady was not walking, she was a kind of ´flying´!!!Gosh... 

On the rooftop, I saw there was light in that ´small storage´ room. There were people talking... and the minute ´they´ saw me ( I only saw one man with his undergarment.. not 2 people), the storage door closed and lights out!! Ok, might be the Greeks were not too friendly. Back to my room... pfff...

When I was in my room, trying to sleep, I heard a lot of movements. You couldn´t really see the people-guests but you could feel ´they´ were there. It started after midnight. There were knocks at my door, but when I opened, nobody there. I decided to put chairs to block my door and covered the mirrors with my kain batik and whatever I had so that I won't see any reflection. I didn't really sleep at night and I kept the lights on. There were knocking on my door all the time. Thank God I had my 'Yaasin" and  it was my best companion. I felt scared, frightened and that include every single word which delivered the same meaning.

Furthermore, exactly after midnight, I smelled 'nice' perfumes  (err only at night okay - during the day bad dusty smell) everywhere in that hotel. Very strong. On the contrary, it seems like the hotel is ´alive´ at night and during the day ... silent.

When we were in Athens, we saw many fliers being distributed, but never took one as the alphabets are different from roman alphabets. When I checked my email later that day, I knew what it was all about. The next day, March 5th, the strike was on  again. Our flight was canceled. I was so pissed off. Luckily our flight company replaced the flight. We can choose any time or destination without any extra fares. So I opted for  a flight leaving Athens on the next day.

To make the scene with extra unwanted effects, the internet was slow and kept disconnected. It took all our patience, our energy and our mood to complete everything. Rearranged the flight, re-modified the hotel in our next destination, and extended the hotel that we stayed. We were lucky. The staff worked out so we could still get the same rate as we booked. Other guests (mostly students), played and entertained our daughter while we worked things out.

So, what's the plan for next day? We went out and be ghostbusters! The truth, the hotel was really eerie and spooky. I did not have the courage to get near. So standing 20 meters away, my husband went in. He took several snaps before the same old man appeared at the reception. (We managed to process the picture where the old man is clearly visible, and our friend confirmed that he did not change at all!). He was pissed off to catch my husband taking pictures but reluctantly answered all questions posted. The hotel rate is 40 Euro per room a night and it was full house. If we want to stay we have to come again tomorrow, early morning. But, who cares! We left the hotel quickly.

Oh, there was also a lady, standing in the doorway, looking sharply with me. I tried to ignore her by playing with my daughter but at the corner of my eyes she stayed looking at me with piercing eyes. When we left she still did the same thing. Not a minute movement of her body can be seen.

So, those who really want to test their courage on unexplained super natural, please contact us. We will give you the address, with one condition - tell us your experience.

Strike in Athens - what a good experience!

Friendly guests - mostly Erasmus students

The spooky hotel

Our friend told us that the windows near the climbing plants are where the toilets are located

Regardless what had happen to us in Greece, the trip was terrific! Acropolis, Agora, friendly helpful people, amazing history, beautiful scenery and good bargain - all in Athens! As a man we met said, ' Don't worrry, we arrr Grrreek!'

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Ancient Athens, new Athens

Athens has been one of  my dream locations since long long time ago. I expect a place which is really well taken care, developed as it is one of the places where civilization begins. Peeping out from the plane already amazed us. The city is sooo huge, dispersed, dense and it goes till the seaside. All are white due to the stone colors they used to erect the building. Excited? Of course!

When we landed, we actually landed at the new modern area of Greece. Hi-tech airport is connected with metro right to the heart of Athens. I read from travelpod that Athens is first in civilization but they only have their metro after 2000 years. I tell you why later.

The first place that we went is the legendary Acropolis. The sun shone brightly but the wind forced us to put our jackets on. Since we do not have wind breaker, we had to make use of our winter jackets. What the hell is wrong with that as long as our student card is valid here. Entry fees? Nada! We are students, ok.

Acropolis consists of many temples, Temple of Nike (Goddess of Triumph -  if I am not mistaken), Phanteon, and many more that I could not remember. Most of the temples are actually ruins, so we still could not imagine how it were during the glorious day. However the best way to enjoy the view of Acropolis is from far. 

Most of the ruins or structure erections are either in restoration or rebuilding state. Only few can be found free from cranes or any building machine.

This is the main temple, Pantheon. Actually this is made from real lime stone. In fact all structures are made from lime stone. We could see many quarries being dig for this purpose. And as usual, my darling significant half is complaining about the extent of such excavation, how it may affect the earth structure, bla bla bla. (Is this one of the traits of geologist?)

Taking pictures at Acropolis was really difficult. As the subject, I had to tolerate the wind and the quick toddling little Zara Humaira. For the photographer was mainly," How am I going to set the tripod on the uneven, stony ground...". Time required? - Enough to cook rice using rice cooker before every setting, and sometimes even more.

Acropolis really tested our strength and patience. First, no stroller is allowed, so we needed to either hold our daughter or walked slowly in every directions with her. Two, the location is extremely uneven, we have to climb, walk down and climb again. Three, the is only one place where we can leave our stroller. So, instead of making a cross through path, we have to create a big round circle. Pfff! Since I am easily losing weight, I have to eat more than double portion on that day or risking myself for not having energy for the next day.

The next attraction is Ancient Agora. This is also the title of latest movie of Rachel Weisz. Even tough the movie was not filmed here (they did it in Egypt), it supposed to portray this part of city.  

Agora was actually a town with temples, habitual area, commercial center complete with sewerage and water system. 

At the middle of the town, was (and still exist till now) a water clock. This water clock only functioning for 17 hours instead of 24. In the early days, the water well  was emptied every morning. The level of risen water showed the time. So, if we were living there, at that particular time, we have to go out to the middle of the town, just to check the time. I could not imagine what if I want to bake...hmmmm

This is another side of the main temple in Agora

One remarkable thing that I learned from my husband was the building were actually carved stones put on top of each other in such an accurate manner where it can stay for years. He added that it must be some application of "tanggam". Do not know what is it, but as long it is beautiful, I am not a person to argue. 

This building is the newest original member of all structures in Agora, dated 1000 B.C - a church. When I sat on the stone, suddenly I heard somebody was screaming something in Greek. I immediately stood up. Owh...actually visitors are not allowed to touch ANYthing. The scream was meant at me. Hahaha. (But it is just a big stone, duh!)

The commercial center has been rebuilt and turned into a museum. There are many things put on display from statues (some with uncertain figure), coins, accessories (big and small), information board describing this and that especially on ritual practices during the era. Also on show is this tomb/grave of little peasant girl. The archeologists said that it was determined by the 2 pins and bracelets which acted as accessories. The age was determined by the water jugs which were buried with her as memoir.

Then, we walked out of the ancient city. Started from Parliament (but we did not capture any photos there as the whole city was preparing for the next strike - I will write on that later), we found this old church right at the middle of a square. 

Straight ahead of the church was an old National Mosque but now it is no longer being used. Instead, it placed some arts and functioned as a museum. Beside the mosque is a metro station of Monastiriki. 

Athens is first in civilization but they only had their metro after 2000 years- remember? This is one of the reasons. Athens today is built on top of the old Athens. Development is really difficult. Everytime they dig a place they found an archeology sites. One of the examples is this, situated exactly in Monastiriki metro station. So besides a metro station, it is actually a small museum, proving that since the early civilization, water system had been developed systematically together with sewerage system. So, they have to both developed the country and preserve the archeological value. Maintenance cost? Don´t ask me. I think this is one of the reasons why the financial condition of Greece today is worsening.

Besides Monastiriki also located the best place in town, Athens Flea Market. Technically it is far from flea market. It is actually a place where souvenirs are easily found (and cheap) along with other items such as clothes, accessories, leather bags and shoes. 

There is also a branch of street at Athens Flea Market where posh restaurants are located, serving typical greek cuisines, like these.Beside good food (with quite expensive price) we can enjoy a beautiful view of both Acropolis and Agora. Yet, I am a person who enjoying my food so I did care less. Oooo I still can savour the taste of aubergine, baked with tomatoes, spices and herbs. Unfortunately, we could not try mousaka as it is cooked with meat. I should try to find the recipe and make it on my own.

At the other side of the town, near the Central Station situated another church. The dome can be seen from our hotel, in green. We went there at the first place cause we thought it is a mosque. It really looks like a mosque if the cross is not there, right?

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Benvenuti a Milano - prego! prego!

Milan in best for people who love high-fashions and shopping. For me, the best time for me to revisit Milan is when my pockets all full including the pockets of my immediate banker. D&G, Armani, Diesel, Gucci, Prada are among the names to visit and revisit. Surprisingly, it is more expensive than what I found here in Barcelona (some of them, but I am not keen in shopping, so forgive my limited knowledge). As shopping is not my main interest, I focus more on my visit - to see the places where Da Vinci´s code movie was filmed.

This is the one and only old castle in Milan - Sforzesco Castle's. It is a Museum of Historic Art as well as Gallery of Modern Art. The Pinacoteca di Brera exhibits collections of medieval and Renaissance art, including the work of Napoleon. Visitors also can find the last unfinished statue of Michaelangelo here.

Cathedral Santa Maria Nascente is where most tourist always got confused with Cathedral Santa Maria de Grazie, where the painting Last Supper is located. This cathedral is made from white shining marble. During a hot sunny day, the reflection may hurt your eyes, yet at night the sight is breathtaking.

This is the real place where visitors can find the painting of Last Supper by Da Vinci. To get in, pay €17.50 and you can view the painting maximum 15 minutes. The building is also protected by UNESCO due to the fact that it contributes to human civilization. (Quoted from plaque on the wall).

View from inside dome of Galeria de Vittorio Emanuele II. Here most designers outlet can be found, whether Italian or non-Italian designers. All are high fashions, so expect nothing cheap. Many designer brands can be found here.

As shopping mood is not in set, Red Riding (without) Hood decided to have a nice stroll with little Blue Riding Hood.

Have you ever find McDonald without red and yellow? It was my first time to find black and gold McDonald! I bet it meant to suit the luxury and elegance of the gallery.

Sometimes, the photographer also needs a break. Instead of taking picture of his various subjects, I took his picture in front of Prada.

In front of the old castle is a huge park. When we were there, we took the opportunity to let our little one to stretch her legs. It was amazing to see her run and climb, trying to jump and imitate us, till a lady approached us and asked whether we wanted to bring her to their agency and audition as a model. My baby as a model??!! In Milan? No way! Glamorous won´t fit in our lifestyles - punto. So those who want to be a model, why not try to start your career in Milan.

See?? The tower is just as tall as my hand reach!

All in all, Milan is better as shopping city. People go there with aim to find good quality items with names. Little can be done for sight seeing, but if you insist, it is still far from hear breaking. At least we achieved our objectives. Oh ya, food is easy to get, just spare your notes. To save a little, go outside the city center a bit and you get good, tasty halal food from Turks.