Every now and then when we travel, we see something that leaves a significant impact on us. That can be a place of extraordinary natural beauty or a historical sight of immense importance, perhaps a world heritage site. It can also be a museum rich in masterpieces and works of art produced by great people that lived and worked centuries ago, but whose legacy remains as a testament to their extraordinary talent and craftsmanship. Thus, we learn about different eras in human history, extinct civilisations and unfamiliar cultures. The positive effect of such experiences cannot be stressed enough, because it is so important for our personal development, for keeping sane mind!
I have travelled a lot and have therefore visited many such places. Each and every time I’ve ended up feeling enriched with new experiences and my newly acquired knowledge. So many times I have come across things that were either completely unknown to me or perhaps I may have had some very vague idea, without real understanding. It is impossible to know everything. Certainly, the world is far too big for anyone to know everything. Travelling and visiting other countries presents us with an opportunity to acquire that knowledge and to hopefully end up being more in harmony with the world in which we live and most importantly more in harmony with ourselves.
I am going to dedicate this particular post to some of the places that I have been lucky enough to visit in the past. They are places that I vividly remember either because of their amazing natural beauty or because the complete experience was so good, that it became unforgettable. However, despite the fact that I would be able to write about many such places that I have visited in my life time, I will have to limit myself as otherwise this post would be far too long. Nevertheless, everything that I am going to mention deserves its own post.
This short retrospective is also an introduction to future posts that I will include in my blog. I intend to write about each place that I consider important and interesting enough to be written about. Thus, I will be able to revert to these essays in the future, to revive my memories. I equally hope that these new posts will be interesting for other people to read and that they will be educational and inspirational.
I went to China for the first time in 2009. Among other places, I also visited the city of Xi’an. This is where the famous and magnificent Terracotta Warriors can be seen. It was very captivating to see so many terracotta statues, most of them so well preserved.
In 2012, I travelled across South America. I started in Colombia, then I went to Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and finished in Chile. I have seen so many wonderful places during that trip. These are just some of them:
Starting with Colombia I would highlight:
– Botero’s Art – before visiting Botero Museum in Bogota, I have never even heard of Botero, yet I ended up completely in love with his very unique and special artistic style. The painting below is from a museum in Bogota.
There are 23 sculptures that Botero donated to the city of Medellin and they are all located in Plaza Botero, in the city centre. It is absolutely fascinating to see his works of art in what really is a permanent exhibition for all citizens of Medellin to enjoy or for whoever passes through that square.
– The Tayrona National Natural Park – near Santa Marta on the Caribbean Sea. This was like being in a perfect tropical paradise! I spent one day in this beautiful park and would love to visit it again.
– The Arvi Park – in Medellin, probably has the most spectacular access to the park. Basically, you have to take a cable car from the city and that part of the journey takes you uphill over favelas, which was very interesting but also very disturbing to see, until you reach another cable car that takes you to the park. The second part of the journey lasts approximately 15 min and it is absolutely phenomenal as you literally glide over a beautiful forest.
From my stay in Ecuador, I would highlight:
– The Otavalo Market in Otavalo – very colourful and interesting. There were many different things on offer and although the market is very popular with tourists, it primarily serves as the market for the locals. There were, of course, stalls with souvenirs and similar thing that tourists usually buy, but in a very reasonable number and the authentic feel of the market was very much present. It was a perfect day trip from Quito.
– The Papallacta Hot Spring Spa – near Papallacta. This was also a day trip from Quito, however this is one place where I would happily spend a week. A place where you go to find your inner peace and to get in touch with yourself. There are many pools and each of them contains water with different temperature. I spent the whole day submerged, it was the most relaxing day. The spa is located high in the Andes, exactly at the point where the Amazon jungle starts. This spa cannot have a better setting than that.
– The Galapagos Islands – it is really not necessary to say much about Galapagos. This was the absolute highlight of my entire journey through South America.
It was also the most expensive of everything I did, but completely worth every penny. The experience was so magical that it captivated me forever.
I don’t really think that it is possible to convey the feeling that you get while you walk among various animals that exist in Galapagos and especially when you realise that they don’t fear you at all, they don’t move while you pass next to them, they don’t fly away and they don’t try to escape. It is a pure nature in perfect harmony!
In Peru, places that I visited and that should be mentioned are:
– Machu Picchu – no photograph can truly convey its magic. It really has to be seen together with the whole surrounding area, only then you can comprehend the complexities of building a city in that particular location and its sheer beauty . Apparently, this was only a minor place in the Inca world, yet it now stands as the most iconic historic vestige of the long gone civilisation.
– The Monastery of Santa Catalina de Siena – in Arequippa is something like the Forbidden City in Beijing, a city within a city. The whole monastery complex is very big and very well preserved and it contains rooms and houses where nuns used to live, kitchens and everything else required for a completely self-sufficient and secluded life. This monastery is a truly impressive site.
– Lake Titicaca – in Peru and Bolivia, is beautiful and I visited both sides of the lake, in both countries. In Bolivia, from Copacabana, you can visit Isla del Sol, it is usually a day trip.
Bolivia ended up being my most favourite country in South America. The most memorable things that I did in Bolivia are:
– I spent three days in the Bolivan Pampas – it was a fantastic experience, especially seeing so many different animals: pink dolphins, alligators, caimans, different birds and small monkeys and also capybaras, a mammal native to South America and the biggest rodent in the world, almost like a big rat.
– Salar de Uyuni – the second biggest salt desert in the world was so strange and at the same time so mesmerisingly beautiful.
– The Eduardo Avaroa National Reserve – a vast desert south of the Salar de Uyuni. Beautiful landscapes and even more beautiful “lagunas coloradas”.
The trip around South America ended in Chile. The most amazing place that I visited in Chile is:
– The Atacama Desert – around San Pedro de Atacama, a totally surreal landscape, something that you can probably see on Moon. But, the absolutely most memorable experience from that area was stargazing. Apparently, this is the best spot on Earth from where to observe the Universe because the air is dry and clean and there is very little light pollution. There are no big human settlements in the area. I have never ever imagined that there are so many celestial objects in the sky, absolutely amazing!
7. EUROPEAN MUSEUMS
Another aspect of my travels is connecting to art and history of places that I visit. Probably the best, but not the only way, is to visit museum. However, I will mention just several of many fabulous European museums that I visited:
– The Louvre Museum – in Paris is so worldwide famous, that it does not really require special introduction.
– The Vatican Museums – in The City of Vatican. Surely, the Sistine Chapel is the most important thing that you can see in this museum and you can admire the genius of Michelangelo in its full glory. But, I also need to mention Stanze di Raffaello (Raphael’s Rooms), containing amazingly beautiful frescoes by yet another great Italian Renaissance master.
– The Expulsion from the Garden of Eden – is a fresco by the Italian Early Renaissance artist Masaccio and it is in the Brancacci Chapel, in the church of Santa Maria del Carmine in Florence. The Italian Renaissance truly started with Masaccio, who followed in Giotto’s steps.
– Camera degli Sposi – by great Andra Mantegna in the Ducal Palace in Mantova, Italy. Sublime beauty!
Additionally, I am also fascinated with places of immense historical significance. One such place is the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. It was the centre of the Imperial Ottoman power for many centuries. The harem within the palace is very interesting to see. I was trying to imagine the life within its confines and everything that was happening there.
The Ottoman heritage is all over the old part of Istanbul. It is very fascinating and very captivating once you learn a bit about the Ottoman history and the way its society and especially the Ottoman dynasty functioned.
There are, of course, many more places that I could mention in this post, but I will stop at this point. If I ever go back, I will write about them. In the meantime, I look forward to new places that I will discover in the future and I will certainly share my experiences in this blog.