TIBIDABO : The best view of Barcelona !

 

Tibidabo, at a height of 512 meters, is amidst the highest mountains in the Sierra de Collserola range, Barcelona, Spain. This mountain range separates the narrow coastal stretch Barcelona is build upon from the hinterland.Being the tallest peak within the limits of Barcelona, Tibidabo offers splendid 360 degree views over the sea, the city,its suburbs and inland towards Montserrat and the peaks of Montseny. A visit to Tibidabo is the best family sight-seeing option consuming roughly half-a-day, totally worth it, because of the amazing view.

How to reach Tibidabo
One can take the subway line with the L7 to the terminus Avinguda del Tibidabo. Take a look at the beautiful La Rotonda building on your way past. Then it is fun to change into the Tramvia Blau, the blue tram. The Tramvia Blau has been the only tram in Barcelona for long time and is still absolutly unique (reminded me of New Orleans and San Francisco’s historic streetcars). From the terminus of the Tramvia Blau change for the last piece into the cable car up the Tibidabo (€3.60 return ticket). During the winter months, the Tramvia Blau only drives on Friday through Sunday, but only a few meters above the valley stop is a bus station (bus 196).
If you are anywhere near Plaza catalunya, then simply take the T2A bus from plaza catalunya for 3 euros, ride takes about 25 minutes.

Chief attractions at Tibidabo

The most recommended route to the Tibidabo mountain top is Funicular de Tibidabo. On the tram’s journey up the mountain you will pass through Barcelona’s most affluent residential area. Take in the leafy surroundings and sneak a peek at the houses of the city’s rich and famous. The journey lasts around seven minutes and as you alight you are half way up Mount Tibidabo and can take in some breathtaking panoramic views of the city. The Plaça Dr Andreu is a picturesque platform looking down over the city. There are pretty restaurants with terraces to while away the hours in tranquil surroundings.

The Tibidabo Church

The top of Tibidabo is crowned by the cathedral del Sagrat Cor. This church has been constructed between 1902 and 1960 in a mixture of modernista and neogothic styles. Admission is free and you are rewarded with picturesque stained windows and beautiful stone work.

The quaint old-world amusement park

For 2 Euros an elevators takes you to the first viewing platform. If you are not afraid of heights, keep on climbing the stairs up to the bronze statue of Jesus Christ on the very top for an unforgettable view of Barcelona and beyond.
On the way up to the mountain you cannot miss the view of the beautiful amusement park. Built in 1889, one of the oldest amusement parks in the world, it still retains the quaint charm. Although there are some rides that can fuel your adrenaline, the main attraction is the setting of the park itself just above Barcelona and the Mediterranean Sea. This fame was still increased by being used as a filming spot in international movies like Vicky Christina Barcelona.
The third notable landmark on the top of Tibidabo is probably the most disputed. 288 meter Torre Collserola Television Tower was built for the transmission of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

~XOXO Safarzaade~

Roman Colosseum : Where gore met glamour

Quick Facts:

Tick one of the seven Wonders of the World from your bucket list. Colosseum ticket is best bought at the entrance of Colosseum in a combo offer also including the Roman Forum and Palatine Hills. For summer heavy tourist traffic season try here at $18 pp. Also download audio tour by Rick Steves to guide yourself inside and make the most of informed travel.

The colosseum or “Flavian Amphitheatre”, as it was originally called after the Flavian dynasty of emperors, stands tall and proud in Piazza del Colosseo, 1, 00184 Roma, Italy, covering an area of almost 6 acres. The name ‘Colosseum’ is derived from the Latin word ‘colosseus’ meaning colossal. This was in reference to the gigantic statue of the Emperor Nero which had been previously erected near the site of the Colosseum. This was the place where valiant, death defying Russell Crowe-like handsome gladiators were pit against each other in a glamorous gorefest and the Roman audience cheered without any deliberation, reveling in their favorite pastime.
Inside the Flavian Amphitheatre

Entrance to the games was free. The massive amphitheater had a capacity estimated at between 50,000 and 80,000 Romans. The area beneath the Colosseum was called the Hypogeum (meaning underground). The hypogeum consisted of two-level subterranean network of tunnels and 32 animal pens. It had 80 vertical shafts which provided instant access to the arena for animals and scenery.The Emperor Domitian, the younger son of Vespasian added the hypogeum and also a gallery at the top of the Colosseum to increase its seating capacity.

Immersive experience

There were 36 trap doors in Arena allowing for elaborate special effects, like entry of wild and exotic animals which included lions, tigers, hyenas, hippos, rhino’s, crocodiles, ostriches, antelopes, bears and zebras. The animals displayed and killed at the theatre were transported from every corner of the Roman Empire reflecting the scale and scope of the Roman provinces. There were over 20 different types of Gladiators. The Roman Colosseum was used for staging various events including gladiator fights, wild animal displays, theatrical entertainment, executions, religious ceremonies, mock sea battles and re-playing famous Roman victories.

The Colosseum was built for several reasons:

  • As a gift to Roman Citizens, to keep them distracted from more pressing issues like unemployment and poverty (quite like politicians today)
  • Increasing the popularity of the Flavian dynasty.
  • To utilize and showcase the latest Roman engineering techniques demonstrating to the world the power of Rome.
Ornate Column heads

The emperor took up a prominent position in the imperial box was called the pulvinar which was located on the podium (meaning place of honor) which was like a terrace and about 15ft wide astride the centre of the minor axis of the arena on the north side.

The Flavian Amphitheatre was built of travertine on the outside and tufa and brick in the interior. The main pedestals were built of marble blocks. In the building of the Colosseum the slaves undertook the manual labor and teams of professional Roman builders, engineers and decorators undertook the skilled tasks.

The Colosseum consisted of four floors. The first three levels had high, arched entrances adorned with tiers of Ionic, Doric and Corinthian columns. A Retractable Awning called the Velarium at the Roman Colosseum provided cover and shade. Brackets supported 240 wooden masts on which canvas awnings were hung.

a. The circular corridor to the south. b. The famous Equestrian statue.

There were 76 entrances which were numbered but there were an additional four grand entrances which were not numbered. Tickets were distributed for the shows, each one marked with a seat number, tier number and entrance number. The inaugural games at the Colosseum lasted more than 100 days. At the end of the day the gladiators who had been killed were dragged through the Porta Libitinensis (Gate of Death) to the Spoliarium where the body was stripped and the weapons and armor given to the dead gladiator’s lanista. The arena was 287 ft long and 180 ft wide. The arena was covered with 15cm of sand.

The eerie light and shade with roadside neons.

There were various entrances/ exits from the arena. The Porta Sanavivaria was the Gate of Life where those who had been defeated but spared would exit,  the Porta Libitina was the Gate of Death or Executions and the Porta Triumphalis where the victors would exit the arena. The bisellium was a richly ornamented seat of honor at the games. It was so called because there was room for two persons upon it, although only one sat there, usually the Emperor. 42 Roman Emperors witnessed the carnage at the amphitheater. An estimated 700,000 people died in the bloody arena. Executions of Christians or Criminals provided popular midday entertainment. As many as 5000 animals were slaughtered in one day. The place, with its shadowy hollowed corridors and eroded limestone surface, broken stairs and columns still reeks of the blood, sweat and roar of a mad Roman crowd.

For a moment get disconnected from the touristy vibe, close your eyes, stand with the lone gladiator waiting to charge into the arena and feel the adrenaline-mixed-fear in his beating heart…hear the deafening din of a ruthless crowd….because that is Colosseum, melting pot of all contradicting intense human emotion.

Santorini: Five absolute budget hacks

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If you are a travel enthusiast and want to visit a lot of places with well-managed economy, this post is for you. If you are on a splurge spree for your honeymoon, please visit the post: here.

Getting down to business right away, Santorini is a 2-3 day detour from Athens if you are planning a Greek holiday. Once you are settled in the beautiful natural beauty your mind again will become restless for something more, especially if you are a city person like me. Santorini has one main town Fira and two small adjoining villages : Oia and Imerovigli all in a length of 18Km and breadth of 12 Km. It has a single airport located in Thira about 5Km from Fira, the main town.

Budget-hack 1: Fly from Athens by Aegean airlines or Ryan Air roundtrip will come as cheap as  €70.

Budget-hack 2: Stay in Fira. It is 7 minutes from airport. There is regular bus service at 1.8 Euro from the airport to Fira bus stop. There are many good BnBs available in AirBnB or equivalent sites. Santorini Rooms for example has Double rooms (Max 2 guests) with Safety Deposit Box • TV • Air Conditioning • Refrigerator • Toilet • Patio • Bathroom • Heating •Bath or Shower • Garden view at €40 per night.

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Budget-hack 4: Indulge in local food and groceries. There are Carrefour and other departmental chains from where one can get fresh fruits, juices, milk (Never miss the “Milko” chocolate milk cans, life savers), cereals for breakfast. MacD and other standard price stores are value for money everywhere. In Fira town centre there are some local deli (try, Lucky Souvlaki eatery) which sell great pizzas, souvlaki (Meat sticks),gyros (meat-wraps), Greek salad, falafel on average price of € 6-7, one square meal. Buy water in 6-packs for €2 at the grocery stores. Explore the local bakeries for sumptuous and cheap dessert options.

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Customary Greek Salad with Fetta Cheese
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The frothy yet relatively strong Greek Frappe

Budget-hack 5: Travel light. Take one back-pack per person, or one cabin-size trolley to avoid extra lugguage charges o the inter-city cheap flights all across Europe.

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The relatively cheap taverns of Ammouldi Bay
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The Black sand beach with relaxing spreads one can rent for 10 euros for unlimited period.
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The red sand beach

Apart from this, there should be no major expense. The natural beauty of the island, the caldera, colorful beaches, the light-house at the southern-most point of the island, the beautiful sunset at Skaros, whitewashed houses, men on donkeys are all a free-show and above all, these are the things you will remember as fondest memories of your Greek Holidays.

  Love,

~Safarzaade

Santorini: I’ll never forget you

How many times have you found out to your dismay that tourist promotional photos are a big fat lie? The sky and ocean are not as blue, the flora not as lush and the city-scapes not as jazzy as they seemed in photos, all done up with Photoshop experts. If you are already grumbling inside of your own worse experiences, let Santorini silence you. Let it stun you, once for real, by its pristine bridal white nestled amidst the endless azure expanse of the South-east Aegean sea.

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S-A-N-T-O-R-I-N-I. If it lilts your heart, you will find yourself absolutely, helplessly in love with the tiny island group (total 5) with the main island named Thira, which you can say, the land of many superlatives…the MOST photographed, the MOST romantic, the BEST sunset and so on.

Santorini: The golden red sunset light at Skaros.
The golden red sunset light at Skaros.
Santorini: The blue domes of the churches.
The blue domes of the churches.

“Bioclimatic” reasons have led the people of these Cycladic islands to paint their houses white. Alternative folklore says, it goes back to the time of the Ottoman occupation. Greeks were forbidden to fly their (blue and white) flag, so as an act of defiance they painted their houses blue and white.

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Pink Bougainvillea bushes make a sharp and striking contrast with the white and blue backdrop and makes the bridal bouquet complete. The sun turns red twice a day, and paints the white countryside a rose-gold, white Catamaran cruises dot the calm blue sea and leave endless frothy trails.

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The narrow winding alleyways in the village of Oia houses some of the best exotic restaurants where one can sip a Greek frappe and just moon away. The churches with blue domes against the breathtaking background makes you extremely interested in photography. Quaint little stores selling handicraft trinkets and memoirs, you can easily see, Santorini people are peace-loving and extremely warm. Explore the Caldera by a small boat, swim at the hot springs of Palea Kameni. Discover the black sand and Red Sand beaches true to their names. Watch the sunset at Skaros, hike a dirt path to top to find your heavenly romantic moment. Greece without a taste of the island life can never be complete. For a very budget-friendly detour to Santorini for your Greek itinerary click here.

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  Love,

~Safarzaade