ART OF KEEPING SANE MIND
I’ve travelled a lot and have 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’ve come across things that were either completely unknown to me or perhaps I may have had some very vague idea, but without real understanding.
But, it’s impossible to know everything. Certainly, the world is too big for people to know everything. Travelling and visiting other countries gives us an opportunity to acquire that knowledge and hopefully end up being more in harmony with the world in which we live and, most importantly, in harmony with ourselves.
This post is about some of the places that I’ve 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 became unforgettable.
However, despite the fact that I’d be able to write about many such places that I’ve visited in my life time, I’ll have to limit myself as otherwise this post would be far too long. But keep in mind that everything that I am going to mention deserves its own post.
This short retrospective is also an introduction to my future posts. I intend to write about places that I consider important and interesting enough to be written about. Thus, I’ll be able to revert to these essays in the future and revive my memories.
I also hope that these posts will be interesting to other people and that they’ll be both 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 phenomenal 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 finally to Chile. I visited so many wonderful places during that trip. These are just some of them:
Starting with Colombia, I would highlight:
Before visiting Botero Museum in Bogota, I’ve 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 in Plaza Botero, in the city centre. It’s absolutely fascinating to see his works of art in what really is a permanent exhibition for all citizens of Medellin or whoever happens to visit the city.
TAYRONA NATIONAL NATURAL PARK
The Tayrona National Natural Park near Santa Marta, on the Caribbean Sea. It 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 of any parks that I’ve ever seen. Basically, you have to take a cable car from the city and that part of the journey takes you uphill over favelas. It was very interesting, but also very disturbing to see how many people live in poor conditions. You reach another cable car that takes you to the park. The second part of the journey lasts approximately 15 minutes and it’s absolutely phenomenal as you literally glide over a beautiful forest.
From my stay in Ecuador, I would highlight:
The Otavalo Market is 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 things for tourists, but in reasonable numbers. Thus, the authentic feel of the market was very much present. It was a perfect day trip from Quito.
PAPALLACTA HOT SPRING SPA
The Papallacta Hot Spring Spa was a day trip from Quito, however it was a place where I would’ve happily spent a week. A place where you go to find your inner peace and get in touch with yourself. There were many pools and each of them contained water with different temperature. I spent the whole day submerged, it was the most relaxing day. The spa is high in the Andes, exactly at the point where the Amazon jungle starts. This spa couldn’t be in a better setting than that.
It is really not necessary to say much about Galapagos. That was the absolute highlight of my entire journey throughout South America.
It was also the most expensive of everything I did during that trip, but completely worth every penny. The experience was so magical, I will remember it forever.
I don’t really think that it’s possible to convey the feeling that you get when you walk between various animals that exist in Galapagos, especially when you realise that they don’t fear you at all. They don’t move when you pass by, they don’t fly away and they don’t try to escape. It’s the nature in perfect harmony.
In Peru, places that I visited and that should be mentioned are:
No photograph can truly convey its magic. It really has to be seen together with the whole surrounding area, because 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’s now the most iconic historic monument of the long gone civilisation.
MONASTERY OF SANTA CATALINA DE SIENA
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. 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.
The 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. tt was a fantastic experience, especially seeing so many different animals: pink dolphins, alligators, caimans, different birds, small monkeys and also capybaras, which is a mammal native to South America and the biggest rodent in the world, like a big rat.
SALAR DE UYUNI
The second biggest salt desert in the world, Salar de Uyuni, was so strange and at the same time so beautiful.
EDUARDO AVAROA NATIONAL RESERVE
The Eduardo Avaroa National Reserve is a vast desert south of 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 was:
The Atacama Desert near San Pedro de Atacama, a totally surreal landscape, is something that you can probably see on Moon. But, the most memorable experience was the stargazing. Apparently, that 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 that area. I have never ever imagined that there are so many celestial objects in the sky.
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. I will mention just several of many fabulous European museums that I visited:
The Louvre Museum in Paris is so worldwide famous, that it doesn’t really require a special introduction.
The Vatican Museums is in the City of Vatican. Surely, the Sistine Chapel is the most important thing that you can see in this museum, where you can admire the genius of Michelangelo in its full glory. But, I also need to mention Stanze di Raffaello (Raphael’s Rooms), containing beautiful frescoes by another great Italian Renaissance master.
“Expulsion from the Garden of Eden” is a fresco by the Italian Early Renaissance artist Masaccio, 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.
Additionally, I’m also fascinated by places with an immense historical significance. One such place is the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. It was the centre of the Ottoman imperial power for many centuries. The harem, within the palace, is very interesting to see. I’ve always tried to imagine the life within its confines and everything that was happening there.
Ottoman heritage is all over the old part of Istanbul. It’s fascinating and very captivating especially when you learn a bit about the Ottoman history and the way its society and, especially, the Ottoman dynasty functioned.
There are, of course, many other places that I could mention in this post, but I will stop at this point. If I ever visit them again, 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 here.