Salzburg of Mozart and salt

Salzburg of Mozart and salt

“Rome of the Alps”, the fairy-tale Salzburg, takes you back to the times when the new musical compositions of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart resonated everywhere in his beautiful birthplace. It’s the most touristic part of Austria after Vienna.

Hohensalzburg Castle The city of Mozart and salt (the economic power of the region in Roman times relied on mineral salt, the “white gold”), with its well-preserved baroque- style old quarter and the easy access to the Alps, is one of the most important Austrian tourist destinations, full of history, beautiful places and finesse.

The Salzach River is flowing through the old town, with its impressive castle at the top of the hill and the snow-capped mountains around! It is an attraction for visitors, who include it in their journey despite the three hours’ drive you need to reach it!

It’s the old town you have to visit, with the main street full of shops, selling clothes, souvenirs (most of course in the person of Mozart), food… everything! Buy Mozartkugel chocolate. the main streetAfter all, they were first made here! Visit impressive churches and of course the castle at the top of the hill for panoramic views over the city!

Have your coffee at Tomaselli, ( the famous coffee shop, with people queuing to take turns at the tables. Try one of the sweets they bring you to choose from on a huge tray and taste Café mélange or hot chocolate with whipped cream! But if you don’t like the buzzing, choose any smaller café and enjoy coffee without the fuss of the world on your head!

As tempting as it may seem to spend endless hours in this picturesque old town, Salzburg has a lot more to offer to those who have decided to explore every part of it. It is a city with an amazing art scene, great food, manicured parks and concert halls that support the musical tradition of the city 365 days a year.


Tomaselli cafeMost important sights

  • Old Town (Altstadt) and Residenzplatz square
  • Dom zu Salzburg – The Salzburg Cathedral with a long history and impressive architecture. A must!
  • The house where Mozart was born (Getreidegasse 9)
  • Schloss Mirabell. Just before heading to the Old Town, it is worth making a stop at Mirabell Palace and its gardens! Several scenes of the movie “The Melody of Happiness” were shot there!
  • On your way to the old town you will cross the pedestrian bridge Makartsteg bridge with thousands of padlocks on its sides! Locked loves with dates and initials! The incredibly beautiful view from the river invites you for photos at this point! Especially at night when the bridge forms a golden arch over the river!
  • Hohensalzburg Castle – Built in white, on top of the small Festungsberg mountain, it offers stunning views of the Alps, the river and the whole city. Built in 1077 by order of the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg, it is one of the largest and best-preserved medieval castles in Europe. Take the Festungsbahn cable car and drink your coffee up there!

The house where Mozart was born    The Salzburg Cathedral


If you plan to visit several sights in the city, it is in your best interest to issue a Salzburg Card. It provides free admission to city museums, free use of the cable car, ferry services and public transport. Benefit from a range of discounts at concerts, theatrical performances and excursions to various destinations in the Salzburg area. Run the numbers and see!

pedestrian bridge Makartsteg

There are also Hop on-hop off city tour buses (starting from Mirabellplatz) as well as carriages outside the cathedral!

All the information with details, such as tickets, visiting hours, etc., here:


Discovering Vienna in New Year’s Holidays!

Discovering Vienna in New Year’s Holidays!

Grabe Street

New Year’s Eve in Vienna! The city is glowing more than ever! And then it’s music! We have experienced it and we present you with our impressions and tips that will help you enjoy your journey without sudden setbacks! We traveled with a group but didn’t follow their full program. Whatever you do, be equipped with warm clothes, an umbrella and comfortable shoes! Navigate through the highly organized public transport system (Metro, Trolleybus, Buses – all the information you will need at the end of this article) and on foot!!! If you do not walk, you will not feel the Viennese atmosphere!

 Must see!

  Start at the Kärntnerstrasse, (just walk from the Karlsplatz Underground stop) right after the “Opera House” and the “Ring” that forms the historic center. Take  the pedestrian street that starts at the corner of Café “Sacher Eck” (there was a long queue outside, every time we were passing by! Taste the traditional Viennese “Sacher torte” that serves!). A uniquely decorated street, full of shops and many Imbiss’s – small canteens with stools, where you can try sausages (bratwurst) sandwiches and hot dogs. Right after Stephansplatz, on your left, is Grabe Street, photographed for its exquisite chandelier decoration! These two streets and the square nearby, o, turn into a huge refectory on the night of New Year’s Eve! Thousands of people from all over the world enjoy the turn of the year, drinking and dancing with music accompaniment! Every here and there a band with live music or DJs and rhythms for all tastes! At the end of Grabe, you reach “Kohlmarkt”, the street of luxury! All brand name stores such as Gucci, Prada and more …

   The Kärntnerstrasse leads to St. Stephen’s Square (Stephansplatz) with its homonymous temple of Gothic architecture,st. stephen's cathedral with its imposing dimensions and the bell, Pummerin as the Viennese call it, that only strikes at special festive moments like Christmas, Easter, New Year’s Eve and in the celebrations of Saint Stephen. Here you can take a wagon that drives you around the historic center. It is a good choice if you want to get a general picture of the centre and rest at the same time! Prices vary depending on the duration of the ride (20-minute ride -55 € / 40-minute-80 €). On your way you will pass by the Vienna City Hall, the Twin museums of Natural History and Art History, between them is the Monument of the Empress Maria Theresa and directly opposite them the National Library, the Winter Palace of Hofburg (now the seat of the Austrian government),  the highly publicized Spanish Imperial School of Riding (Spanische Hofreitschule) and finally the National Opera. The fortunate thing is that everything is either in Hofburg or very close to the area!

 palm house  The city brims with palaces and parks! Here we go … and estimate at least a 2 hours’ visit in each one of them, excluding queuing time! Must visit: Schloss Schönbrunn Palace, the summer palace of the Habsburgs , resembling the Versailles in France, with its imperial gardens and numerous statues beautifully lit at night. We visited it with the group and with a good guide and did not regret it! We combined the visit with that to the Zoo (Tiergarten Schönbrunn), the oldest zoo in the world, a part of the Schönbrunn “garden”. The Belvedere palace and park, in Baroque style, is scheduled for another day. In its botanical garden see thousands, home and exotic, flowers and plants. The palace area functions as a museum and hosts seasonal exhibitions but its pride is the largest collection of Klimt projects worldwide.

Schloss Schönbrunn palace    imperial garden of Schönbrunn

   Over 90 Museums to choose from, according to the available time, courage and wallet capacities… the ticket is in most of them quite pricy. However, if you are interested in the arts you have come to paradise: Museum of Art History, hosting the imperial collection of artworks, one of the largest in the world. Major works by Rubens, Rembrandt, Dürer, Tizian and others are housed here. Right across is the Twin Museum of Natural History. If you have never visited a natural history museum before, do not miss it. – Albertina with important paintings by Dürer and Klimt. The most modern projects include Monet and Picasso. – In the old imperial stables, the Museumsquartier (the neighborhood of art) hosts many exhibitions and other artistic events. Here is the Museum of Contemporary Art, known as MUMOK, dedicated to the revolutionary era of the 60s. Next to it is the Leopoldsmuseum, a host of expressionist works. It is worth honoring the Museumsquartier café and the Architecture Center housed there as well as the Kindermuseum if you have children with you!

Hofburg   Hofburg

     Discover the Christmas Markets (Christkindlmarkt) in many corners of the city. Among the most famous are the City Hall (Rathouse), Schönbrunn and Maria Theresien Platz. There, we drank the hot Glühwein (cinnamon wine), ate hot dogs and salty pretzels and bought souvenirs. In the large square of Rathouse we welcomed the New Year’s arrival, along with thousands of people from every corner of the world. There was a live orchestra, a giant screen and infinite fireworks! Dancing, too!

Christmas Market Maria Theresien Platz    museum of natural history

Austria is Mozart’s homeland and the city echoes with waltzes! Everywhere you look, you see the portrait of the great musician, either in memorabilia or in the famous Mirabell’s Genuine Salzburger Mozartkugeln. Dozens of other souvenirs are sold everywhere, along with the favorite pig “gluckschwein” (“lucky pig”) that they buy for good luck!

Have a relaxed day in the colorful “Hundertwasserhaus” neighborhood, designed by the homonym architect. Combine it with a visit at the Prater (an amusement park with a giant wheel) or a coffee break next to the Danube. All are in the same direction.

When food is the question: we tasted Viennese cuisine dishes such as juicy schnitzel and other chicken dishes, at really good prices, at the Wienerwald (Goldschmiedgasse 6) very close to St. Stephen’s. We ate (more modest, though) at the Kaiserpavillion Restaurant in the Zoo. Very convenient for a rest, as it is located in the center of the garden, housed in a pavilion with impressive decoration, roof paintings and very good service!Hundertwasser haus

These and other things you will discover for yourself, make up the Vienna that everyone wishes to see! In any case, it will be great!

Suggestions for food and coffee

The Figlmuller restaurant is known for its schnitzel.  Cafe Altwien (Bäckerstraße 9) in the heart of the city center, a few minutes far from St. Stephen is one of the renowned coffee shops of the Viennese culture that is highly recommended for its cuisine, with snacks, such as sausages and goulash.

In Vienna coffee has a hand-made flavor. Visit the central Café Landmann on the Ring. Since its foundation in 1873, it is a Viennese meeting point, not just an intellectual, ( Simund Freud used to spend hours there) but an artistic one, too! Marlene Dietrich’s choice as well!

And of course the unique, historic Café Central (Herrengasse 14) with the 1000 coffee cups served per day! One of them must be yours – and it can be accompanied by an Apfel (apple) Strudel!!!


  • As soon as you need to stroll around, get the city map and the transport map. Your hotel will provide it to you for sure! Buy a 24/48/72 hour card depending on your plans or even better buy a  Vienna City Card that offers discounts on museum entrances, etc. See here: or https: / / and – check out ticket prices
  • – download the application and get organized. A very useful one!
  • Create your own city guide, according to your preferences here:
  • Do not hesitate to ask someone if you get confused or do not understand a sign. The Viennese are extremely eager to help and give you instructions if you ask. Signs are often only in German.
  • You can rent bicycles. There are bicycle paths everywhere and the city is very friendly to cyclists. There are bicycle stations in the city where you can hire and leave a bike. Traffic rules are respected by all without exception!
  • Tours guides are worth paying when visiting museums, etc. Do not be stingy, you will not regret it. Unless you have a printed / online guide or pay for the audio guide
  • Tap water is drinkable. It comes all the way from the Alps! When you order at a restaurant and the waiter asks you if you want still or sparkling water, you order tap water. Otherwise they will bring you a bottle and you will pay for it dearly!
  • Avoid the guys in the squares trying to sell you tickets for concerts! These concerts are of controversial quality and in inappropriate places!
  • Their traditional coffee is Wiener mélange (with milk foam) that looks like cappuccino and, of course, chocolate Viennois. They also serve espresso, but not filter coffee.


Autumn in Paris

Autumn in Paris

  End of August, the best time to visit Paris! You only need a thin cardigan for the evening. The trip combined pleasure and work so we were looking for our tickets were for very specific dates. We booked the return ticket for 30 € at the end of May and then we expected the prices to fall before booking the departure ticket …

   Finally, we booked it in August for 210 € … That was a bit pricey but we could do nothing at the time. Our hotel Hotel “Operadeauville” was close to the opera house. We stayed in a clean, warm, tiny, little attic room. Anyway, it was just for a sleep! One of the most economical hotels, in a nice area, it cost almost 300 € /double room for four nights. We booked it through

  We started our day with breakfast delicacies from the oven on the opposite corner. Quiche Lorraine, tartaletas, croissants (plain without chocolate filling … how diapponting!) and of course coffee! But we can never have enough coffee, so we provided ourselves with a XXL coffee cup from Starbucks that lasted for half a day!

 On the first day we arrived in the afternoon at the hotel and we did not get to see enough stuff. We walked up to the opera that was very close and then we headed down to the Seine.

 What enchanting landscape … Even the alleys had something imposing that made you shiver! The next day, equipped with all we needed … map, camera and of course something to nibble , we started our walk in Paris! We bought a metro ticket valid for 4 days (37.25€). It may sound a lot but it is OK!

 Our first stop was at the Louvre museum. An exquisite building … A mere glance at all the exhibits will take you at least one and a half days … They gave us a map of the museum and we chose which rooms to visit! We were lost at 2-3 times but we managed to see the Greek exhibits, Venus of Milos, the imposing Victory of Samothraki and many others. Somewhere there was the Mona Lisa … My feelings about this painting are mixed … It’s a small painting and the whole world was gathered in front of it … When you turn your head, you see “Kana’s wedding” … It covers the whole wall… and such awesome details!

 We moved on to the banks of Seine, we browsed in the antique shops and bought souvenirs at very good prices! A little further, the French made an artificial sandy beach with sun loungers and showers to cool off! At the end of the road, the “Notre-Dame de Paris”! I will say no more…….. the photo says it all!

  After a walk in the area’s alleys and a delicious crepe we returned for a rest! The “Champs-Elysees” were our next stop, I have to say … such lavishness I’ve never seen before !!! Chanel, Dior, Armani, Versace, Gucci and many more! At the end of the road the arch of the triumph, “Arc de triomphe de l’Étoile”! It’s worth going up to enjoy the unique view!

 Another place with incredible views is “Montmartre”! A very beautiful area in a high point of Paris. Painters, vendors, street musicians make up a magical landscape! Of course, we followed the example of the French and we sat on the lawns for a mini break! In the “Gardens of Luxembourg” we also took a nap on the lawns!!! … To our surprise, many visitors did the same thing! It’s the verdant scenery that calms you …

 I left Paris’s landmark at the end! The “Eiffel Tower” … Very nice lighted in the evening but a stack of irons in the morning … In the evening, the park in front of the Eiffel tower is filled with people! Going a little further up at the park, on a large landing, every night has tango music and dancers traveling to you in another era … How much more beautiful can a trip to Paris end?…

Guests in Wolfsburg, Germany

Guests in Wolfsburg, Germany

When thinking about a trip to Germany we immediately associate it with a large city. Our mind usually relates it to a flat and perhaps indifferent landscape, a dull industrial environment, with chimneys producing technology, rainy weather and strict people who do not think much about us Greeks. Our Easter trip was destined to Wolfsburg, and our favorite neighbor Simela, that hosted us in her home.

Wolfsburg We arrived on Holy Tuesday’s evening after a 2 hours’ flight from Thessaloniki we arrived at Berlin and later at the offices of Eurocar, just outside Schönefeld airport, where we picked the Opel Corsa we had rented. (158 € for 6 days in combination with our tickets / total 628 € for 3 persons).

Wolfsburg is located in the north, 90 km. east of Hanover and 230 km drive far from our final destination. Great roads, gorgeous landscapes unfolding before us, huge parks with dozens of turbines! There was an issue with the signs which are all in German !!! All Germans have GPSs. Do not set off without it.

We spent the first two days in Wolfsburg walking around the green city.lake at Wolfsburg Trees everywhere, manicured parks with lakes, canals, animals (rabbits, geese, squirrels, otters and countless birds) living freely in residential areas. The feeling you have is that you live in a habitat. Kilometers of cycle paths, protected pedestrian walkways, benches, playgrounds! Volkswagen industry, dominant in Wolfsburg besides the well-known cars of the group produces tasty sausages as well!

So try the currybockwurst sausages of Volkswagen, visit the Autostadt, presenting all vehicles of the group in a unique way, in an environment configured with lakes, bridges, restaurants and cafes as well as a museum of technology evolution in cars, of sale and track test drive. (Inquire about entry prices and opening hours at: We preferred the hours with reduced entry (€ 7), an amount you can consume in the restaurants of the center.

Porsche building The Car Towers

Apart from walks in the beautiful city streets and shopping centers with famous brand name discount clothes, relax with a visit to Badeland, a huge aquatic amusement park that receives 790,000 visitors a year, part of Allerpark, a multiplex with numerous recreational activities. Check out the address:ße

Enjoy your coffee on the main road Porschestraße, at “Bar Celona” (a rich breakfast/ lunch buffet may be your option, too)! If you prefer Chinese eat at “Lou’s” (Friederikenring 5, in Vorsefelede,, if not select the “Altes Brauhaus zu Fallersleben” for authentic German cuisine.

Hanover was our next destination. At 90 km from Wolfsburg, the city of 500,000 residents with a relaxed pace on major walkways and squares, showed crowds only at the main train station “Hannover Hauptbahnhof”. We parked under “Ernst August Galerie Knaufhof” Mall (2 € / hour) and strolled around the beautiful square with cafes and beautiful station building. A coexistence of modern with the old. The city was almost leveled by bombings, and yet Altstadt (the old town), not lacking in any German city that respects itself,Hannover Hauptbahnhof exudes such an atmosphere that it is hard to believe that its buildings are not at all medieval, but perfect copies of the originals that didn’t survive the bombings of WWII.

  For a day’s tour, start by following the Bahnohofstrave street, just opposite the statue of Ernst August, at the station square and then Georgstrave and pass in front of the opera house Staatsoper Hannover at the beautiful Opernplatz square. Turning on the right and two blocks below, stands the majestic church Aegidienkirche, bombed during the Second World War and never restored, remaining a proof of the deadly war. At this point you are very close to the New Town Hall. Following Ebhardtstrave street you will you will reach the huge and majestic the Neues Rathaus, built in 1913. Take the elevator to the dome of the New Town Hall to admire the town panorama, from a height of 98 meters.

 Continuing north, locate the Altes Rathaus ( Located on Karmarschstrasse 42, one of the oldest buildings in Hanover, the medieval Old Town Hall.

In the same square (Hanns-Lilje-Platz, 2) there is Marktkirche Hannover (St. Georgii et Jacobi).Neues Rathaus The oldest church of Hanover was built in the 14th century and is a fine example of Gothic architecture. Its impressive interior was destroyed during the Second World War and was fully restored in the 50’s.The lucky ones will enjoy the organ playing(www.marktkirche-hannover)

The tour lasted for about 5 hours. On a longer stay we recommend:

  Herrenhausen Gardens (Herrenhäuser Strasse 4).Visit the Royal Gardens of Herrenhausen, walking through the green Herrenhäuser Garten you will feel like being in Versailles, without the hordes of tourists and souvenir vendors. You will need a car or means of transport if you set off from the city centre.

Maschsee Lake, south of the New Town Hall. The huge artificial lake Maschsee in the heart is a favorite place of recreation for locals and visitors. An ideal setting for picnics, jogging and roller skating, swimming, boating, pedal boats and sailing boats dinners, especially during the summer months.Marktkirche

Erlebnis Zoo: The zoo in the center of Hanover city, is accessible from almost all public transportation. It’s awarded and it takes a long time to walk around it.

And once the weather got better after the rains and low temperatures we decided to spent Friday in Berlin! What can you see in a single day in Berlin?

Dozens of landmarks all around, inextricably linked to the unification of the population. Monuments, houses, shops and people form a heterogeneous “puzzle”, since two different “worlds” were called after decades to live together, now forming a whole with their similarities and differences. Berlin is a patchwork of peoples and cultures!

Our selection included a circular route starting from Potsdamerplatz, where we parked in the basement of the Sony Center. The newly built area which for over 28 years was a buffer zone, was once lit only by lights on the Berlin Wall, aiming to identify those who were trying to flee to West Berlin.

piece of the Berlin WallThis area that was rebuilt from scratch in record time, with impressive skyscrapers, designed by famous architects, with modern buildings and modern homes took the place of the abandoned buildings of the 50s. You will hear noise and see lots of people come and go, because the area under the huge dome of the Sony Center is very popular to locals and tourists.

Checkpoint Charlie Heading eastwards, 3 streets below to the right, we arrived at Checkpoint Charlie, a crossing point in the Berlin Wall, which divided the East from the West part. A popular tourist attraction, bustling with tourists taking their photos in front of the huge posters of the American and Russian soldier or reading about the history of the walls. (A 500ml bottle of water costs 2 € at this point!)

At 1,700 m distance northeast lays the Museumsinsel (Museum Island), a UNESCO World Heritage site, which is in the middle of the Spree. Five of the most important museums of Berlin are housed there like the Neues Museum, the Egyptian bust of Nefertiti and the impressive Museum of Pergamum hosting a partial reconstruction of the Pergamon Altar (170-159 BC) and other fascinating exhibits. We unluckily found the Pergamon room closed due to renovation works. Therefore before visiting the region make sure your points of interest are open. or page for information about all the Berlin museums.SonyCenter

In the same area visit Cathedral Berliner Dom, the largest church in the city and the center for the Protestant Church of Germany. You can climb the 270 steps to the outside corridor for fantastic city views, or visit the Hohenzollern (Crypt), where many kings are buried. Navigate to the Cathedral Museum containing the plans and models of the cathedral design, and admire the great Sauer organ with 7269 pipes and 113 registers.

Following Unter der Linden street to the west or taking the train (SBan) as we did, taking off at Hauptbahnhof station and passing the bridge led us to the German Parliament area, in the famous Reichstag (the building of the German Parliament called Bundestag today). Its dome, entirely made of glass, allows a panoramic view of the city. The entrance to the roof is allowed, but you must register in advance and stand in a long queue. Continuing on foot, a short walk led us to Tor Brandenburger (Brandenburg Gate), the emblem of Berlin, along the lines of the Acropolis Gate (Propylaea) built in 1791.Museum Island It was a gate of the Berlin Wall and was once a sad symbol of division. However, today, after the demolition of the wall, it is now a symbol of unity. The square in front of it is Pariser Platz, where every moment something happens! Musicians, impromptu performances …Siegessäule column could be seen towards Tiergarten park Grover.

Alternatively, bike- taxis are available in the area, for two passengers to move you around the sights comfortably! On the vertical to the gate street” Unter den Linden”, many souvenir shops, luxury hotels and cafés with tables on the pavement are the best pick after all this walking! Coffee prices for are normal!

  We returned to Sony Center through ”Ebertstrave” road with a stop at the Holocaust Memorial (Holocaust Memorial), a network of 2.711 concrete slabs that vary in height and one can walk through them.

Trying to catch up with the Zoological garden visit hours, we failed. We arrived there at 17.10’. The Zoologischer Garten ( closes at 18:30 but does not accept other guests after 17.00.Reichstag Pity! It has more than 19,000 animals of various species and is one of the most impressive gardens in the world they say!. Maybe next time!

To tell the truth, we were late trying to figure out the Berlin transport system. All the maps and information were only in German!!!! Until we found someone who spoke English and could help us with the stops we lost time. So make sure you make a nice plan, deciding the routes you will needed. See if it’s cheaper to buy a day card. The ticket for one trip is 2,70 €! Pretty expensive!

Summing up, the issue of language was a negative point. In our contacts with Germans (market, coffee station) few spoke or wanted to speak English! We were speaking in English and they were responding in German! The worst, however, and I mention it because it happened in five encounters, sellers were rude, offensive and unhelpful. Shocking and sad for such a touristic place. Making the visitor to feel unwelcome!Brandenburg Gate

Furthermore we would like to have visited

• Jewish Museum: (

• The preserved sections of the Berlin Wall, where the largest part (length of about 1.5 km) is covered with graffiti. The Berlin East Side Gallery, a section of the Berlin Wall covered in artworks by 106 different artists 1.3 km. This monument to liberty was painted in 1990 and is the largest open-air gallery in the world.

• Walk to the famous Alexanderplatz Square with its famous TV tower or Fernsehturm known as Tele-spargel, total height 305 meters, which is visible from almost every point of Berlin. The sphere contains a revolving restaurant called Telecafé at 207m.

And of course the list does not end here!

But our trip was over! We spent Easter day with friends, neighbors in Wolfsnurg, which offered us an Easter lunch with Greek delicacies! Thanks you Tasos and Effie! The same night the lights of Fair lit up the sky. The Germans welcome May with celebrations !!!

We got back with beautiful images, full of our dear friend’s hospitality and as always the germ of “pametaxidaki” working in our minds!

More about Berlin:

Bansko of all seasons

Bansko of all seasons

A weekend in Bansko? Typical you might say! And you are probably right, because it has become a frequent destination over the years. For us, it was the first time and this was our motivation!

The 300 km of distance were covered in a 5 hours’ drive, on a rainy Friday afternoon. Six friends on a seven-seater Opel Zafira. We were not in a hurry! Therefore, the stop for coffee at the borders lasted a little longer!
As soon as we passed the Bulgarian control (neither the Bulgarians nor the Greeks gave as a glance!!) we stopped to exchange euros to levas at the currency exchange office by the taxi rank on the right. 1: 1.93 parity. When you do it for the first time you always exchange more money than you need. For sure! Eventually 50 euros (100 leva) per couple would be enough for the weekend.

Our next concern was to get on the road to Sofia. A little adventure, since there are detours due to the construction of the road to Petritsi. The guidelines, given by friends who knew the area well, noted: From the borders follow the signs to the right and as soon as you enter Petritsi turn right at the first traffic light and take the street to Sofia. After 300 meters, at the next traffic light, turn right again.  You stay on this route; you pass by Sadanski and when you reach Simitli, take the right turning to Bansko. Beautiful nature! ( reminds you of “Tembi”). It was nine o’ clock when we finally reached Bansko.
The municipality of Bansko (Blagoevgrad region), the Pirin Mountains and parts of the valley of Razlog, is of great natural beauty. Especially now, that it’s autumn, the leaves of deciduous trees have incredible colors!

So, Bansko, at an altitude of 925 m. is a vast hotel. Everywhere hotels in a western architectural style, equipped with spa, sauna, swimming pools, massage facilities……… 5 star accommodation units , but also smaller ones, guesthouses for all tastes and budgets are built and constantly being built in and around the city with direction to the mountain. In many places there are construction sites. The starting point of the lift is behind hotel Kepinski, right in the centre of the town! Very convenient!  We stayed at Asteras Hotel.

The problem was we had no idea how to find it! We stopped at the first gas station we met at the city entrance. It was an ECO Gas station. When we asked for directions, a very willing lady offered to take us there, so we followed her car. The hotel was impressively illuminated in the darkness of the night. And big! They had even cared to hand us a dinner package, as we were late and the dining room had closed. The rooms were pleasant. Large spaces, tidy, with full mini bars, all the necessary amenities and spacious bathrooms (bathrobes, slippers), satellite TV and a balcony with a view.
After so many hours of travelling and since we had food supplies brought from Greece, we stayed all in one room until dawn playing “taboo”.pool spa sauna...

Saturday morning started with the city tour (right after breakfast of course! Which, by the way, was very satisfactory). We headed to the town center on foot. Small shops with souvenirs, traditional products made of roses (they have a long tradition in making creams, perfumes, even sweets out of rose pedals) and many taverns, «Mexanas» in the Bulgarian language, with Bulgarian folk color on the way to the main square. We reached the paved Square «Nikola Vaptsarov» with the park with the fountains and small lakes below. We visited the church of Agia Triada with its unique carved iconostasis and icons painted by the famous Bulgarian masters Dimitar and Simeon Molerovi. The exterior of the house -Museum of Neofit Rilski, founder of Bulgarian education in close space was picturesque, too. Many houses in the old part of the town have retained their traditional architecture with decorated facades in the cobbled streets. The coffee in the only modern coffee of the square did not satisfy us.

the old town     We continued our stroll driving uphill, on the street leading to the ski center and shelter Vihren. The mountain is only a ten minutes’ drive far from the city!  So just a few meters from the last houses on Pirin street, to our surprise,  we came up against the city river, with its rushing waters flowing  down the slope among tall trees. The National Park “Pirin”, a protected area of outstanding natural beauty, with a clear alpine character, travels you into movie scenes with featuring elves, dwarves and fairies! Very attentive, clean, with waterfalls and alpine lakes at higher altitudes, it is ideal for touring through all seasons. That’s for sure! Even on such a cloudy day, with the raindrops shining on each leaf, it was nevertheless attractive. From what we learned, a number of activities are planned covering all tastes, all year round. Besides skiing, you can do cycling, hiking on numerous marked trails, climbing, rafting, horseback riding, paintball, even paragliding! The ski centre though, was closed due to lack of snow, during the days of our visit!

cobbled streets

Naturally, the next scene was written in the “Log House” tavern, where we tasted delicious dishes. Bread loaf stuffed with a variety of meats and vegetables, roasted on a cast iron cookware that came to our table sizzling!! And a number of other local dishes. We ate, drank regional wine and we left delighted.

After such a meal, our only possible destination was the hotel and later the spa, hammam, sauna and all the services of the hotel. At night, during this season, (the season had not started, yet; that’s why many shops were closed) there aren’t many options other than eating. We were informed that the club in the square was the only one open. However it played only Bulgarian music at night. It wasn’t a pick for us! The room hosted us again and the night passed with movies and showdown in taboo. One more winning night for the girls!!!
The next morning, after a proper coffee in the “Traditional”, found us in Razlog, a town nearby, with a large oriental type square, meaning lakes, park, and works of art here and there under trees, with golden-yellow leaves. Autumn colors in all their glory. Here, as well a river crosses the town, which was very quiet in this Sunday morning.
On our way back home, we had a necessary stop in Sadanski, to take a bite and spend our last levas. And one more stop on the border for chocolate and coffee!
Two days of calmness and relaxation. Exactly what we were looking for!


Bulgarian drivers run like crazy and overtake on bends!
The only good coffee we drank was in “Traditional” . The Greeks that own it import the coffee they use from Greece.
There is a very informative city guide that is distributed for free. See about finding it in the beginning of your trip there. It’s quite handy! Unfortunately,  we came upon it in the end!

map bulgaria en map bansko big

National park Pirin mountains

3-day trip to Belgium

3-day trip to Belgium

What we saw in our 3 days trip


We started our tour in the city of Leuven walking around the city cente, passing by the numerous bicycle parking spaces.


Leuven is located east of Brussels (20 km). It is a dynamic and thriving city of about 95,000 inhabitants in Flemish Brabant. It is a “university town”, lively during the academic year with approximately 35,000 students studying each year, at the oldest Catholic University in the world, founded in 1425. The historical center is one of the most beautiful in Belgium. Most of the city was destroyed and burnt down twice during the German invasion in World War II and during the Second World War.


Leuven Town HallIn the historic center most historical buildings such as the University Library have been preserved and restored, partly with foreign funds. The Town Hall of Leuven is one of the most famous Gothic town halls around the world and the pride of Leuven with its 236 statues on the facade.

Sint-Pieterskerk – The St. Peter’s Church is the oldest church in Leuven, founded in 986.

The University LibraryDe Bibliotheektoren AND Universiteitsbibliotheek (Library Tower and the University Library) – The University Library is the most spectacular building in Leuven. If you have the courage to climb the numerous steps up to the top tower you will be rewarded by a fantastic view of the whole Leuven. During the First World War the university library was destroyed by fire. In the 1920s, a new library was built in Flemish Renaissance style on the Mgr. Ladeuzeplein mainly thanks to US funding after over 300 American educational institutions have contributed to the construction.The library has more than three million volumes and is one of the most impressive buildings in Belgium.

Arenbergkasteel (Arenberg Castle) The first castle was built here in the 14th century, it changed many hands and renovated in different architectural styles such as Renaissance, Gothic, neo-gothic until 1916 the Duke of Arenberg donated to the University of KULeuven. Today it is used by the Schools of Engineering, Architecture and other KULeuven Science.

Root Begijnhof (Great Beguinage) This part of the city, with the history of the 13th century, is a world heritage of UNESCO. It is a magnificent piece of total relaxation, right in the heart of the city. A number of streets, squares, gardens and parks with dozens of houses and monasteries built from traditional sandstone. In the mid-17th century, approximately 360 Beguines lived there, pious women who did not have their own resources and needed accommodation.

Here are the main industries of technology (due to the University) and beer. It houses the company «Anheuser-Busch Inbev», the largest brewer and one of the top five consumer products companies in the world. But the Stella Artois Brewery, Leuven, Belgium. The story goes that in 1926 the Artois brewery in the Leuven, Belgium produced a beer so bright she was named Stella, which in Latin means “star”. Today, Stella Artois is sold in more than 80 countries, with an hourly tour of the brewery Stella Artois to reveal all its secrets. (Information:


Bruges or Venice of Belgium on a Saturday afternoon


After an one hour-journey by car from Brussels, we parked the car in a parking beneath a square and continued walking around the fairytale town, making our way through chocolate and waffle smells. The few cars circulating on the cobblestone streets encouraged our steps. We walked a lot. Within a continuous drizzle and along with a bunch of people who were filling the streets and squares. We went up winding stairs, cornered in narrow sidewalks, crossed bridges over canals (group of islands Brugge, hence the title of “Belgian Venice”), gaze at majestic, medieval houses with entrance from the river, we climbed in Belfort with 47 bells and admire the city from above.

Once one of the richest cities of Europe, today Bruges is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe and a popular tourist destination. It offers exemplary infrastructure in hotels and restaurants and teeming with visitors all year round.

frietjesWe ate fries (frietjes) with mayonnaise (delicious local specialties) in one of the many “Friteries” and various other snack shops gazing at the people walking by, holding colorful umbrellas or riding bicycles in the rain.

In the afternoon, after our rides in the canals, parks and gazing in the windows with lace, chocolates, beers and tourist souvenirs have come to Carpe Diem, for warm waffles with chocolate and ice cream in the atmospheric tea shop-bakery.

Bruges Grote Markt, the “square” of Bruges was (and still is) the heart of the city. Among the wonderful medieval architecture buildings with terraced roofs, stands the city’s symbol, the Belfort, a tall bell tower, the top of which one can enjoy the panoramic view and the sound of 47 bells ringing incessantly since the 18th century – though of course afford to climb the 366 steps leading to them. Here every Wednesday flea market of the city is set up.Bruges Grote Markt

Very close to the beautiful medieval “rank” of Groenerei, we met the main channel of the city, from many points of which start at the thirty-ride their special boats. Catch one of them, because it is both more economical (6,80 €) from the same horse-drawn carriage ride (€ 30) and you will have the chance to see parts of the city that you would not have the ability to locate on foot.. Next sight: Lake Minnewater. The ultimate romantic Bruges spot is located on the edge of town, and to reach it you have to walk through the other attractions of the historic center: the tower of the Church of Our Lady (Onze Lieve0Vrouwerekerk), which is the tallest brick building in Europe and It hosts the only Michelangelo sculpture that sent outside Italy legend of the Renaissance, the “Virgin and the Holy Child” (1504) and the scenic area of ??Gruuthuse museum (an “ark” of traditional life in the medieval town), Groeninge (art museum starring the “local” Van Eyck and Memlingk) and Sint-Janshospitaal (historical hospital that houses temporary art exhibitions and a beautiful courtyard).

BruggeThe city is internationally known for its textile industry and especially for the manufacture of traditional lace. 10,000 were lace makers in 1840. Today the authentic Sewing will find the oldest store that exists today (the smallest) in Little Lace Shop

Visit the “pub-brasserie» Cambrinus (Philipstockstraat 19) Besides a wide variety of Belgian beers, tasty and cheap pasta, pancakes, omelettes and the specialties fillet mushrooms and three peppers (about 20-25 € per person).

Also bistro “Bitter & Sweet” (Sint-Amandstraat 18), where apart from exquisite tea or hot chocolate you can enjoy a light lunch with delicious sandwiches and hot dishes (about 15 € per person). -For Wonderful hot chocolate in the afternoon or a rich variety of beer and wine daily updated, be sure to enter the “Cafe Rose Red”, ideal place for both, with a backdrop of soft wood, jazz sounds and hundreds of red roses hanging from the ceiling. If your hotel booking does not include breakfast, wake up early and go to the first floor of the shopping centre “Hema” in Shopping Street, where from 9.00 until 10.00 breakfast (croissants with jam, sandwiches with egg and bacon, coffee and biscuit) costs just 1 euro.


Brussels is one of the smallest capitals in Europe, because the city’s population barely exceeds one million and one of the most interesting European capitals, with great history and unique character.

Mont des ArtsHomeland of cute Tintin, Brussels is a typical example of modern, European city with impressive modern buildings, concrete crowded squares, particularly cared hotels, museums, beautiful towering temples, great kitchen with basic trump the fondue, the steamed mussels and chocolate in all its versions.

We arrived at the center with the train from Leuven (journey of 50 km was comfortable and cost EUR 8 per person). We went down to the main Gare Centrale station, a short walk from, the Grand Place Square, which was and is the focus of life in Brussels. Here you feel that you came back in time in a time machine. It is basically a rectangular nearly square, surrounded by buildings, representative samples of different architectural styles, crammed together, decorated with symbolic sculptures. Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo. One of the buildings houses the town hall and the city’s main tourist office and another, medieval style, entitled “The House of the King” , hosting exhibits de la BJT Brussels. Here, every second year, and for five days in August the Carpet of Flowers is”stretched” on the square. This is an elaborate flower weave, occupying all the space and colors flood the square.

Navigate around the Great Square. The Galleries Royales de Saint Hubert, a shopping arcade built in 1847, will impress you. So will the medieval atmosphere that exudes the Saint Nicholas of Myra, the corresponding Ai-Vasilis Brussels. And of course search for the little guy that pisses with great ease (Manneken- Pis) and has become the meeting point of tourists. A small bronze statuette of 30 cm in front of which every visitor is photographed. If you’re “lucky” you will see it with any of the 740 costumes available which he wears accordingly. What you will see is the replica as the original broke in 1817, when former convict Antoine Lika tried to steal it.

Our walk continued towards the beautiful Parc de Brussels. On the way you meet, opposite one to the other, the Royal Fine Arts Museum, with exceptional collections of famous painters and sculptors and the Musical Instruments Museum with an impressive collection of instruments from ancient times to today. The royal palace on the highest point of the uphill road is a museum dedicated to the royal family history.

musical instruments museum BrusselsHeading east led to the street de la Roi, the European Union District, site hosting modern administrative buildings of the European Parliament and behind it the Leopold II Park (Parc Leopold). Crossing the park and following the street Rue de Cornet we were led to the magnificent double Jupelpark park and Parc du Cinquantennaire the arch Triumphal Arch, the impressive Musee Royaux d ‘Art d’ Histoire (collecting global treasures). Nearby the Musee Royal d ‘Armee et Histoire Militaire (military museum) and the Autoworld enormous collection of historical cars.

Please note that the Belgian capital has dozens of museums. Great museums to visit is the Horta Museum, the home of the eponymous architect of art nouveau and the museum of comics the local favorite hero Tintin belongs, too.

A little further from the city center, the famous Atomium Boulevard du Centenaire is the giant replica of a molecule, which was built in 1958 to represent Belgium at the International Fair.


Visit the flea markets on the streets and Hautes Blaes at every day intervals and discover treasures or feel like a local living a favorite habits of the Belgians and sip a coffee at De Skieven Architekt , one of the oldest coffee city. Take a walk in the Sablon area, known for some of the most famous chocolatiers in the city. Try chocolate creations in Wittamer, a shop with a century of historyBrussels triumphal arch


There are about 50 km of cycle paths linking the city’s parks, while Villo public bicycle program offers 2,500 bikes throughout the city. The daily cost for renting a Villo bicycle is about 1.5 euros, while in Gare du Nord station you can find a fully equipped workshop for your bike. If you decide to move by bike, follow various group outings-tours and discover the hidden corners of the city.

Quench your thirst!

Since Brussels is located in Northern Europe, beer is prominent in the daily life of city residents. Small coffee shops in the city are preferred by locals as here they can find varieties of beers that can not find in commerce or in the city’s bars.

How to move

LeuvenWalk! If you don’t walk you won’t see anything. Besides car are not permitted entering most parts of the cities

In Brussels, the choices are more, but the best are the Metro and bus. Tickets can be perchased from the driver, from automatic coin machines unless you book a multiple travel card, so will contact the specific counter. You only have to point out that the metro, although very convenient, it is rather difficult to understand. If confused, ask. The Belgians are gentle and helpful. The taxi is a little expensive.

Where to stay, what to eat, how to have fun

Get a good taste of Brussels hotels by entering the site or in this central city tourist office in address. Especially for Bruges,

For your culinary needs, fearlessly indulge in the worthy hands of Belgian chefs. Locals prefer the fish and so you are going you enjoy several delicacies based on marine wealth. We have already mentioned the steamed mussels (TIP: If you are two, not order corresponding portions. Each one weighs about a pound of mussels, dipped in plenty of delicious sauce in a cast iron pot. No matter how much you eat, it will be enough). However, the local cuisine includes a variety of exquisite meat dishes. Whatever you order and in case you want it well done, highlight it on the waiter. Belgians prefer their meat undercooked. Do not forget to try fondue meat or fruit in melted chocolate.

Royales de Saint Hubert GalleryFor desserts, I will not dwell. Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate. Finally, if you’re a fan of beer, here you will find your paradise. Belgium has a tradition of its kind. The content of Belgian beer is 12% alcohol and mind the quantities you drink.

Nightlife for locals usually means drinking beer at some atmospheric bistro. This does not mean that it deprived the outlandish wine or whiskey or vodka type drinks. A place with celebrity attraction of politics from all over the world, such as Brussels, offers everything. If you feel like you have to discover the super nightclubs try one of the two magnificent bar-restaurants of the Great Square. As for Bruges, it isn’t known for its nightlife, but the Jazz Cafe in Langestaat is a good choice for a pleasant in the evening.


Teashop-bakery (CarpeDiem) BruggeDue to the EU headquarters Commissioners and hosting of the entire continent, the city of Brussels is well patrolled, but being a big city, you’d better avoid the secluded streets at night.

The climate in Belgium is typical of Northern Europe. The sun and rain mix featuring all four seasons. Therefore, whenever you visit the country, take along a raincoat. Moreover, because the winter cold is bitter, take along warm clothing and of course, for all periods, comfortable shoes for walking.

The Belgians speak Flemish and French. If you speak French, fine but if you don’t you’re your English. All the locals pretty much understand and consult.

Shop opening hours are usually 10p.m.-6m.m. Only bakeries and shops selling newspapers open earlier. Plan shopping on Monday. It is the day when museums and galleries are closed.

Either as a driver or as a pedestrian be careful on the roads! The Belgians drive dangerously and as the law that requires priority to pedestrian is relatively new (1996), they haven’t digested it, yet!