Posted in Beach, Outdoors, Travel, Turkey

A gem of the Aegean Sea in Turkey – Fethiye Beach, Oludeniz

Fethiye.2.jpg

Turkey is one of the destinations where you can do it all on a budget. ¬†The weather is nice all year around, winter is mild on the south; food is great but it tastes even better with life music ūüėČ ¬†The closest airport to √Ėl√ľdeniz¬†¬†is Dalaman but if you are looking for an international airport, pick Istanbul and rent a car¬†because you are looking at 808 kilometers, which takes about 9 hours and 15 minutes (without stops).¬†¬†For your information Ankara is about 7 and 1/ 2 hours away. I drove to¬† √Ėl√ľdeniz via Troja, Izmir and Denizli spending a night on each location but it was more scenic that way.

√Ėl√ľdeniz¬†means Dead Sea¬†due to its calm waters even during storms; the official translation is¬†Blue Lagoon, is a small village and¬†beach¬†resort¬†in the¬†Fethiye¬†district of¬†Muńüla Province, on the¬†Turquoise Coast¬†of southwestern¬†Turkey, at the conjunction point of the¬†Aegean¬†and¬†Mediterranean¬†Seas. It is located 14¬†km (9¬†mi) to the south of Fethiye, near¬†Mount Babadańü.

√Ėl√ľdeniz remains one of the most photographed beaches on the Mediterranean.¬†It has a secluded sandy bay at the mouth of √Ėl√ľdeniz, on a blue¬†lagoon.The beach itself is a pebble beach. The lagoon is a national nature reserve and construction is strictly prohibited. The¬†seawater¬†of √Ėl√ľdeniz is famous for its shades of¬†turquoise¬†and¬†aquamarine, while its beach is an official¬†Blue Flag beach, frequently rated among the top 5 beaches in the world by travelers and tourism journals alike.

Other known beach areas are Kusadasi and Bodrum.

√Ėl√ľdeniz is also famous for its¬†paragliding¬†opportunities. It is regarded as one of the best places in the world to paraglide due to its unique panoramic views, and Mount Babadańü’s exceptional height.¬†Breathtaking panorama and stable weather conditions make launch site at Babadag Mountain the best in Europe.

I can’t describe with words how magnificent ¬†√Ėl√ľdeniz¬†¬†is so let me just post a video I found on Facebook by The World but I also took photographs last November.

Sources: The World, Wikipedia

Images: clickstay, Pinterest

 

Advertisements
Posted in History, Hungarian history, Travel

Pena Castle – The highlight of Portugal with Hungarian history

image

What a small world, the King of Portugal had Hungarian roots!

Little did I know when I planned this Portuguese trip including a few castles in Sintra. To the best of my knowledge history books don’t mention anything about a Hungarian princess, Maria Antonia Gabriella Kohary who was the mother of Ferdinando II, the king of Portugal, who built this famous castle.

This is what the sign said located at the Castillo de Pena:

“King Fernando II of Portugal was born in 1816 in Vienna, the son of Duke Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and of Maria Antonia Gabriella Kohary. His father had converted to Catholicism in order to marry this Hungarian princess, thereby founding the Catholic branch of the family, which is also known as Saxe-Coburg-Kohary. In 1836 Fernando married Maria II, Queen of Portugal and from this union were born 11 children, amongst whom two future Kings, Pedro V and Luis I.”

I did some research on Maria Antonia and according to Wikipedia, she was born in Buda on July 2, 1797 as a second daughter of Ferenc Jozsef ¬†Koh√°ry¬†de Cs√°br√°g, known as¬†Franz Josef, Count Koh√°ry¬†and his wife, Countess¬†Maria Antoinetta Josefa von Waldstein-Wartenburg.¬†She¬†was a Hungarian noblewoman and the ancestress of several European monarchs. She was the heiress of the¬†Koh√°ry family¬†and one of the three largest landowners in Hungary. ¬†To make Maria a suitable bride for a prince, the emperor had raised her father (whose ancestors had been created¬†counts¬†in the¬†Hungarian nobility¬†in July 1685 and¬†barons¬†in February 1616) to¬†Prince¬†Koh√°ry of Cs√°br√°g and Szitnya in Austria’s nobility on 15 November 1815, two weeks before the wedding, thereby allowing her to come to her bridesgroom already a princess.

The history of Pena Castle: The palace itself is composed of two wings: the former Manueline monastery of the Order of St. Jerome and the wing built in the 19th century by King Ferdinand II. These wings are ringed by a third architectural structure that is a fantasised version of an imaginary castle, whose walls one can walk around and which comprises battlements, watchtowers, an entrance tunnel and even a drawbridge.

In 1838, King Ferdinand II acquired the former Hieronymite monastery of Our Lady of Pena, which had been built by King Manuel I in 1511 on the top of the hill above Sintra and had been left unoccupied since 1834 when the religious orders were suppressed in Portugal. The monastery consisted of the cloister and its outbuildings, the chapel, the sacristy and the bell tower, which today form the northern section of the Palace of Pena, or the Old Palace as it is known.

King Ferdinand began by making repairs to the former monastery, which, according to the historical sources of that time, was in very bad condition. He refurbished the whole of the upper floor, replacing the fourteen cells used by the monks with larger-sized rooms and covering them with the vaulted ceilings that can still be seen today. In roughly 1843, the king decided to enlarge the palace by building a new wing (the New Palace) with even larger rooms (the Great Hall is a good example of this), ending in a circular tower next to the new kitchens. The building work was directed by the Baron of Eschwege.

The 1994 repair works restored the original colors of the Palace’s exterior: pink for the former monastery and ochre for the New Palace.

In transforming a former monastery into a castle-like residence, King Ferdinand showed that he was heavily influenced by German romanticism, and that he probably found his inspiration in the Stolzenfels and Rheinstein castles on the banks of the Rhine, as well as Babelsberg Palace in Potsdam. These building works at the Palace of Pena ended in the mid-1860s, although further work was also undertaken at later dates for the decoration of the interiors.

King Ferdinand also ordered the Park of Pena to be planted in the Palace’s surrounding areas in the style of the romantic gardens of that time, with winding paths, pavilions and stone benches placed at different points along its routes, as well as trees and other plants originating from the four corners of the earth. In this way, the king took advantage of the mild and damp climate of the Sintra hills to create an entirely new and exotic park with over five hundred different species of trees.

Sources: Parques de Sintra and Wikipedia

Image: traveltoeat

 

 

 

Posted in Cheap Airline, Europe, Travel

Understanding combination air tickets and luggage allowance on small air crafts

A friend of mine contacted me from Hungary asking me for help on a combination ticket. Her son and husband are flying from Budapest to Barcelona for a soccer tournament taking Wizzair but returning with Ryanair.

In cases like hers, a trip involving multiple airlines within the EU she must check with both airlines to know the exact baggage allowance because airlines have different limitations.¬† Don’t be surprised if one airline allows smaller cabin bags and lighter checked bags than the rest so when you have a combination ticket you must go with the stricter one (given you travel with the same bag both ways).

Short flight planes are fairly small so the overhead luggage compartments and the space under the seats are very small, which means that they have to limit the size of the carry-on items.  Due to cabin space limitations they may only fit 70-90 cabin bags but any remaining bags will be checked free of charge at the door of the air craft. If you carry fragile items in your cabin bag and there is no room for yours just insist that they check other bags instead of yours otherwise you can say goodbye to your china.

Before you start packing your personal belongings please check your airline’s baggage size and weight allowance (if you are flying with multiple carriers then check¬† with all of them) because if your bag is off by an inch and it does not fit inside the cabin, you will be asked to check it and there is a fee for that. Keep in mind that checking a bag at the airport costs up to 40% more than checking it online so choose your luggage wisely.¬† Now, if your bag does not fit because there is no room for it (the overhead compartment is full) than they will check it for you free of charge SO THERE IS A BIG DIFFERENCE!!!!¬† Measure your luggage (with wheels and handle) instead of relying on your best guess.¬† If you have a bag that you used in the past on another flight do not assume that all airlines will accept it (under free allowance), for the record Lufthansa and British Airways tend to accept larger cabin bags.

The same rule goes for checked bags, as they call it in Europe “hold bags”.¬† Size is important so that your bag can fit through the cargo door and weight matters because you will have to pay for it; some airlines have set fees while others will charge per kilogram over a certain weight, like Ryanair does it over 15 kg or Easyjet over 20 kg; the heavier the bag the higher the cost is. Don’t stop there, Wizzair charges different baggage fees during low season and peak season travel, not to mention an additional airport surcharge if you purchased a ticket within 3 hours of your flight departure.

There is no way to memorize these baggage fees for every airline which keep on increasing every year besides the allowances are different for each carrier, so don’t bother. Pack light and try to fit your personal items in your carry-on and second bags; if you must check a bag just follow the guidelines for the cheapest option. First class and business class passengers have more free allowances so I suggest you to check the baggage allowance for your flight every time you travel.

Image: santoantaovacation

 

 

Posted in Portugal, Travel

Portugal’s hidden treasure: Bussaco Palace Hotel

 

 

 

bussaco-5

bussaco-3

bussaco-8

After touring Spain I was really excited to discover Portugal, planned my trip around¬†medieval villages, castles, forts and ports but Bussaco Palace was not only a castle also our hotel for a night. ¬†As you all know castles and forts were built on hilltops so I thought I would spot this from a distance but it wasn’t visible at all. ¬†After leaving Lisbon we visited several castles, stopped for sightseeing in Coimbra¬†and arrived to Mealhada at night. ¬†The¬†road to Bussaco Palace left me wondering if we were going to end up in somebody’s driveway when all of a sudden there she was with her glorious beauty, a tucked away shining star. ¬†Our jaw dropped when we first spotted this illuminated castle while the smell of pine trees combined with the sweet fragrance of magnolia, jasmine and roses¬†tickled our noses. ¬†We normally check-in hotels quickly and settle down but this time we took forever to make our way from the parking lot to the reception.¬†My family took off in different directions leaving the luggages to me, nobody cared about our room numbers yet. ¬† They slowly appeared one by one holding not one but two cameras and told me that they wanted to get up early the next day and see this in daylight. ¬†What a way to end our day, after seeing castles all day long we were actually spending a night in one!

The Palace Hotel of Bussaco is located in the heart of the National Forest Bussaco, right in the middle of Portugal, in the known Bairrada region. The Bussaco forrest is many centuries old, planted and cultivated by the Barefoot Carmelite Monks who lived in cloistered confinement and contemplation for more than 200 years, from 1630 to 1834. This magnificent natural alter was blessed and protected by a papal bull issued by Pope Urban VIII in 1634.

The walls that protect the forest are more than 5,000 kilometers long and have several gate entrances. ¬†The “Portas de Coimbra” , the gate that served as the entrance to the Monastery, still incorporate the Papal Bulls, which at the time prohibited the cutting down of the trees and banned women from entering the forest – and consists of two imposing gates with the walls covered in the pebble inlay work, so characteristic of the Carmelites area. Adjacent to the “Portas de Sula” is the monument commemorating the Battle of Bussaco, which took place nearby on September 27, 1810 between the Anglo-Portuguese forces led by the Duke of Wellington and Napoleonic troops under General Massena.

Sources: www.bussacopalace.com

Images: bestourism, tripadvisor, versailletovictoria, hotels, luxurydreamhotels

 

Posted in Car Rental, Toll in Europe, Travel

Advising on toll systems in Portugal

Dear Reader and Future Traveler:

If you found incorrect or incomplete information on Portugese toll systems as I did, look no further, this is the blog you need!

In all honesty, I have never seen so many toll gates on one single road and so many different toll systems¬†in a single country, as here. ¬†It does not matter where you enter Portugal, you can’t avoid paying tolls, which already starts at the borders. ¬†Upon entering Portugal you can’t miss these large signs asking foreign vehicles to register for EasyToll. This is a very simple and quick process; you approach the EasyToll machine (make sure your car stands fairly close to the gate), slide your credit card (and leave it inside the machine for processing unlike in the USA where you quickly swipe it), the camera takes a picture of your license plate and¬†associates it with your credit card. ¬†The sign up has a cost of 0.60 Euro+VAT and each journey has an administrative cost of 0.26 Euro+VAT, which will be charged to your credit card.

 

Note:

-These machines do not accept credit cards with a chip so you better have the right credit card with you because you¬†can’t turn¬†around here!!!!¬†

-If you change rental cars during your trip, you can update your registration online but you can’t switch credit cards so make sure your credit card has funds.¬†

You are¬†going to get a receipt as¬†proof of registration, showing your license plate,¬†identifier number and the last four digits of your credit card number. ¬†The registration is valid for 30 days and with EasyToll registration you can drive on regular toll and EasyToll roads. Every time you cross a toll gate¬†the camera will read your license plate and automatically charge the toll to your registered credit card without stopping. The amount of toll for each car category is posted on a big sign just before the gate. YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO USE THE VV (VIA VERDE) LINES with this type of registration unless your car is also equipped with a transponder. When you leave Portugal don’t¬†forget to cancel this service to make sure nobody drives¬†the same rental car with your registered credit card!!!

The toll gates cost nickel and dime but they surely add up because the gates are only a few kilometers apart. ¬†There are secondary roads if you want to avoid paying toll but they barely qualify for roads; you basically have to share a single lane with incoming traffic, which could easily mean anything from crossing goats to tractors. ¬†Somewhat scenic but there are no facilities between the villages unless peeing in the bushes satisfies you, not to mention you can’t drive faster than 25 KPH.¬†We did not last long driving on secondary roads, immediately set our GPS to allow toll roads from that moment on and saved an hour on a 2 hour drive!¬†People, gasoline in Portugal is 1.48 Euro a liter so do the math, it is more economical to take the toll roads, trust me on that, so worth it!

Another toll option is a 3 day sticker which entitles you to unlimited use on regular toll roads (driving light vehicles only) but¬†not good for EasyToll roads. ¬†It costs¬†20‚ā¨ with a service cost¬†of 0.60‚ā¨+VAT and an administrative cost of 0.26‚ā¨+VAT per journey. There is also an option of a pre-paid ticket with previously defined date and journey:

Journey from Spain – Porto Airport, via A28 or A41 (round trip)

Journey from Spain – Faro Airport via A22 (round trip)

On a side note: I heard this sticker does not come off easily and rental car companies don’t like it.¬†

The third option is a transponder, so-called¬†Via Verde device. ¬†This device allows you to use the VV (Via Verde) line which is the express line in Portugal while the toll gates debit the amount from your device. ¬†You can rent a transponder and return it or just buy one if you don’t like the hassle. Cost of rental: 6 Euro in the first week and 1.50 Euro for each week after that. Initial deposit is 27.50 Euro (value refunded upon return of the device) and the consumption is depending on the use. ¬†You can purchase this product in Via Verde stores or in service areas, IN CASH. ¬†For permanent stays, the driver may purchase a Via Verde device with direct debit online, Via Verde stores or at the Caixa Geral Bank in Spain. Validity period¬†of 90 days, extendable for an equal period whenever a new minimum preload is made before the expiration of that period.

The ¬†fourth option is the TollCard which is¬†activated through an SMS, with a fixed amount to be consumed depending on circulation. This solution allows payment in cash or with bankcard, is valid for one year and your balance can be found on the Internet. It is aimed at tourists and immigrants. ¬†The driver can buy a pre-loaded card with 5, 10, 20 or 40 ‚ā¨ (with an added service cost of 0.60‚ā¨+VAT for each purchased card).

After purchasing the card the driver shall proceed to its activation by sending an SMS by mobile phone with the code printed on the card and the license plate of the vehicle (instructions on the card), so that it is associated with the license plate of the vehicle. You can activate more than one card, with the accumulation of balances.

The driver can check the card balance online at¬†www.portugaltolls.pt¬†and when the card balance runs out, the customer will receive an alert SMS. The activated balances will be consumed depending on the use of highways with electronic toll collection only and for each journey it¬īs applied an administrative cost of 0.26‚ā¨+VAT. ¬†Each card is valid for one year after its activation.

A tollcard that is not activated or damaged can be returned in any CTT office and its purchasing cost will be refunded. The remaining credit can also be refunded if a credit card was used for the payment (as long this was ordered during the sign up), in a 6 month maximum period.¬†Buy it at CTT post-offices, at Portuguese highway¬īs service areas or at¬†www.tollcard.pt.

Lastly, the fifth kind of toll, which is not mentioned on any website, are the manned toll booths on certain sections so you have to pick up a ticket the old fashion way and pay the toll when you exit or whenever you get to next pay gate on your road.  They accept cash and credit cards as well.

IMPORTANT: IF YOU FLY INTO PORTUGAL AND RENT A CAR, YOU MUST ASK YOUR CAR RENTAL AGENCY TO RENT YOU A DEVICE OR A TOLLCARD BECAUSE YOU CAN’T REGISTER FOR EASYTOLL IF YOU ARRIVE BY AIRPLANE!!!!

LASTLY: TRY TO LINE UP AT MANNED TOLL BOOTHS FOR PAYMENT, THE OPERATORS ARE PRETTY QUICK, THEY ARE FASTER THAN THE MACHINES THAT PROCESS YOUR CREDIT CARDS. MACHINES OCCASIONALLY DONT ACCEPT FOREIGN CREDIT CARDS OR CARDS WITH CHIPS SO AVOID THE HASSLE AND JUST HAND YOUR CREDIT CARD TO THE OPERATOR INSTEAD. ¬†ONCE THE MACHINE HAS AN ERROR READING THE CREDIT CARD YOU CANT CANCEL THE TRANSACTION AND NEED TO ASK FOR HELP BY PRESSING THE “I” BOTTON WHICH IS INFORMATION¬†AND MEANS A 15 MINUTE STOP. EACH TOLL BOOTH HAS 2 CARD READERS OUTSIDE BUT YOUR BEST BET IS THE OPERATOR.

ADVISE: IF YOU ARE ON A ROAD TRIP CROSSING FROM SPAIN COVERING A BIG PART OF PORTUGAL AND DON’T KNOW WHICH METHOD IS THE BEST FOR YOU: DO WHAT WE DID: REGISTER FOR EASYTOLL. ¬†IF YOU ARE FLYING IN THEN RENT A DEVICE. I WOULD NOT SUGGEST THE 3 DAY STICKER SINCE MOST ROADS ARE ELECTRONIC TOLL ROADS, IT ALSO HAPPENS THAT ONE ROAD HAS BOTH EASYTOLL AND REGULAR TOLL SECTIONS WHICH MEANS THAT YOU WOULD BE PENALIZED FOR USING THE WRONG METHOD FOR EASYTOLL.

Image: engenhariacivil, autotraveler