In my previous article – Back in Riccione – I mentioned that the main reason for my recent travel to Italy was to attend my friend’s 50th birthday party. A month before that, my friend’s brother asked me to send him some photos of places that my friend and I visited together. He wanted to make a photo album, a retrospective of my friend’s life. It was a wonderful idea, to step back in time and to revisit past moments and wonderful experiences.
I was ready to help but, in my current laptop, I only had photos going back to 2008. I know that I have photos going all the way back to when I bought my first digital camera, in 2000 or 2001. That was also when I had my first laptop. I changed several laptops since then, but I didn’t transfer the photos. Additionally, I also checked my external hard drive, but photos from that period were not there.
I dug around the house and managed to find a CDs with all photos. It’s needless to say how happy I was. Photos were clearly marked and well organised. I haven’t seen those photos for at least 10 years, probably more.
So, I decided to dedicate this post to those past times, a tribute to some of my most memorable travels. I spent a lot of time going through all photos, in order to choose the best ones for my friend’s photo album. That task was a real treat. It was wonderful to revive memories after so many years and to remind myself of those past travels. But, I have to say that my memories have certainly started to pale. I looked at some photos and I could not tell where I was. I could not remember the actual moment when the photo was taken. But, never mind! It is normal to forget things, especially after so many years and after so many more recent experiences that have clearly taken over my mind.
Reviving those happy moments, in the company of good friends, is what matters the most!
1. ANDALUSIA – SPAIN – June 2004
In June 2004, I spent two weeks travelling around Andalusia in Spain. The trip started in Seville and included visits to Cordoba, Ubeda, Baeza, Jaen, Granada and Marbella.
Frankly speaking, I no longer remember much from that trip, as it was 15 years ago. But, I remember that all places that I visited were interesting and with a lot to see. I would definitely like to go back and revisit some of the places that I have already seen and to visit some new ones.
Perhaps, the most impressive and still relatively vivid in my memory are the Cordoba cathedral and the Alhambra palace in Granada.
That trip ended on the beach in Marbella. The best and the most beautiful beach to which I went was Cabopino, some 14km east of Marbella. One other place that I visited was Ronda, a beautiful inland town, approximately 65km north of Marbella.
2. MYKONOS – GREECE – May 2005
In May 2005, another friend of mine celebrated his 40th birthday on the Greek island of Mykonos. I’ve been to Greece before, but near Thessaloniki. Mykonos is very well known, it is similar to Ibiza in Spain. It is a very beautiful island, with excellent beaches. At the same time, it offers varied entertainment and there is a huge number of restaurants, bars and similar establishments.
The reason I remember this trip and why I wanted to include it in this post is because that was also when a lot of good friends got together. We all had a wonderful time, especially as the focal point of the stay was my friend’s birthday celebration. Mykonos is definitely a place where I would like to go back again.
3. SPAIN & PORTUGAL – September 2005
In September 2005, I travelled with a group of Italian friends to Spain and Portugal. This was the first of four trips together. Unfortunately, this is also one trip that I no longer remember very well. It is quite interesting how the time that passes by diminishes our memories. Perhaps, it is because so many new things have happened since then.
We started our two-weeks stay in Santiago de Compostela in Spain. We rented a car and started to move down towards Portugal.
The next stop was Porto, on the Atlantic coast. A beautiful and very interesting city!
We also visited the nearby town of Braga and its magnificent Bom Jesus do Monte church.
Then, we moved to Leiria, where there wasn’t much to see, but it was conveniently positioned for the area in which we visited several historical sites. One of them was the early 16th century Domenican convent in Batalha. We also went to Fatima. It was very sad to see so many destitute people in search of a miracle, hoping to alleviate whatever problem they had.
The next and the final stop of that trip was Lisbon. That was my first time to go the Portuguese capital.
I don’t know why, but I remember that I did not expect much of Lisbon. Perhaps, I thought of Portugal as a small country, on the fringe of Europe. Also, perhaps because Portugal was economically weaker than other European countries. Anyhow, I was in for a huge surprise. One crucial point that I did not take into consideration was that, at one point in its history, Portugal was a huge colonial power. It is precisely in Lisbon that you can see that point!
Lisbon is a true imperial city, adorned with majestic buildings, everywhere you look. It is also a place where I would like to go back, especially as I remember very little now. After all, such a long time has passed since that visit.
4. VENICE – ITALY – December 2005
My visit to Venice in December 2005 was part of a longer stay in Italy. The reason I want to mention it is because I still think that Venice is one of the most beautiful cities that I have ever seen. Another reason is that two friends joined us from nearby Slovenia. We all enjoyed being together, even though it was for several days only. Being with goods friends is priceless!
The city is magical. Built on the canals, with beautiful palaces, squares and churches everywhere around you. Even in these murky photos, the city looks wonderful. I remember that it was cold, grey and humid. But, the beauty of the city and the good company of friends made all discomfort disappear.
Interestingly, I haven’t been back to Venice since that visit in December 2005, although I’ve been to Italy so many times since then and I stayed not far from there. I will go back, the only thing is that I have to choose carefully when to go. Usually, the city is overwhelmed with tourists and I would like to avoid the crowds.
5. SICILY – ITALY – October 2006
One more trip, also to Italy, that I want to include in this post is a visit to Sicily, in October 2006. That was my first and the only time there. Sicily is a very beautiful island, full of history and natural beauty. That particular trip started in Palermo. As a matter of fact, I’ve only seen that part of the island, the area around Palermo. In addition to Palermo, I also went to Cefalù, San Vito Lo Capo, Erice and Trapani.
Palermo reminded me a lot of Belgrade. It was a very beautiful, but very neglected city. I remember that, unlike in the other parts of Italy, buildings were in a rather bad state, with crumbling facades. Although, that gave the city a very special and unique charm.
Hopefully, I will go back to Palermo again. There is a lot to see, a lot of history. I also remember that it was cheaper than northern Italy, but I don’t know if that is still the case, after so many years. There are exquisitely beautiful details all over the city, such as the fountain below.
In the photo below, you can see San Vito Lo Capo. I went to the beautiful beach, but although it was sunny and warm, it was already a bit too late for the beach.
That trip ended in Trapani. I have never heard of Trapani before, so going there was an extremely pleasant surprise. It is also a very beautiful place, with a lot of very beautiful buildings.
In any case, I have only seen one small part of Sicily. I have not been to the other side of the island, where there are even more beautiful towns, such as: Messina, Taormina, Catania, Syracuse, Agrigento and many others. Another trip to Sicily is clearly long overdue!
6. STEP BACK IN TURKEY – June 2007
Then, we travelled to Bodrum, a resort city on the Mediterranean coast.
The final stop was Fethiye, also on the coast. That was an absolute highlight of the trip, as we spent time on a beautiful and famous beach in nearby Olu Deniz.
We returned to Istanbul for several days, before taking flights back home. I have vague memories of this trip too. However, in one week I am going back to Turkey for two months and will revisit some of these places and visit some new ones too.
7. EGYPT – November 2007
The trip to Egypt in November 2007 was also with my Italian friends. That was a two-weeks holiday, at the time when Egypt was considered safe for travel. The trip started in Cairo, with a visit to nearby pyramids in Giza.
Once there, you can visit all sites, which also includes the Great Sphinx of Giza.
Being there was a real step back in time. However, when I think about that trip now, I understand that I was not really prepared. We have all heard of Tutankhamen and Cleopatra and that was also my knowledge of the ancient Egyptian history. It’s a pity, because I saw so many wonderful things, without properly understanding their importance in the ancient Egyptian society. I was pretty much like a camel in the photo below.
From Cairo, we flew to Luxor, where we visited the magnificent Luxor Temple.
While in Luxor, we also visited the Valley of the Kings. It’s a magnificent site. I remember that we saw several tombs, but unfortunately I no longer remember which ones.
We started a cruise on the river Nile in Luxor. That was an amazing experience.
It was a three-day cruise, from Luxor to Aswan.
The landscape was spectacular, although we saw a lot of poverty, a lot of very poor villages along the way. It’s been 12 years since that trip, but I don’t think that much has changed for people there, especially because Egypt has recently gone through some very turbulent times. That has certainly interrupted the economic progress, if there was any at all, that may have benefited the poorest communities along the river.
Another very interesting aspect is that you can see the vegetation and the greenery immediately next to the river. As you can see in a photo below, the endless desert starts literally some 20 or 30 meters from the river. That stretch of green land along the Nile enabled the ancient Egyptian civilisation to exist. The same as many people exist there today in a more or less similar way. It felt like stepping back in distant history.
From Aswan, we flew back to Cairo, where we stayed for additional 3 days. We visited the city and its main historical sites.
There is a lot of history in Cairo. A lot of very old mosques, churches and bazaars.
Our hotel was next to the river, with spectacular views. Cairo is a very big and busy city. However, what I remember the most is the relentless traffic.
It was almost impossible to cross the street in Cairo, as no one wanted to stop to let us cross. It was an aspect of the city that I really disliked. It’s strange that people treat each other in that way, but that’s a subject for another post.
However, the best and the most interesting part of our stay in Cairo was visiting the markets and taking part in its day-to-day life.
That was the first time for me to visit a country like Egypt and it was an eye-opener. For me, it was a totally unfamiliar reality, but very much part of the daily existence for most people on our planet.
In this particular street, all different types of animals were on offer. We have to admit that it certainly looks different to the way the meat is presented and purchased in developed western countries.
As a matter of fact, I remember being in a total shock. It was very interesting and at the same time very educational to see that type of food commerce.
But, when I look at these photos now, after so many years, I see something that I didn’t see at the time. I assume that the basic premise is that you buy whatever bird or other animal you want. You take it home, you kill it and cook it. It may sound gross, but the same happens in abattoirs where we live. The main point is that those people eat fresh and most probably organic meat. Often, we look at it with disgust, but I don’t think that we should. Rather, we should look at the way we eat. In the US, they eat chlorinated chicken. How vile is that? It’s a “delicacy” that will soon arrive on shelves in the UK supermarkets, after hard Brexit at the end of October this year.
So, it should be with disgust that we look at the way that western corporations push and promote their processed and ultra-processed unhealthy products. We should envy people in Cairo and in other parts of the world, who have access to ultra-fresh and healthy meat.
So, there it is. After many years and thanks to my friend’s brother, I had the opportunity to revisit these old photos and to revive my old memories.
Also, I can come back to this post and remind myself again of all this in the future.