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Posts Tagged ‘travel’

I (heart) Malaga

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I don’t know why, but I just love Spain. I love the hot climate, the awesome countryside, ranging from wild mountains and deserts to lush forest and the beautiful Medditerranean and Atlantic coasts. One of the cities I love most is Malaga. Malaga is in Andalusia, right on the Medditerranean Sea. But lo and behold, it is not a tourist trap, this ancient city! Once ruled by Phonecians, Romans, Arabs and finally the Spaniards, the city looks and feels like a mix of different styles of architecture and cultures. The weight of its history is prevailing in almost every corner. It was also birthplace and home to the one and only Picasso. The city is well aware of its heritage, as there are several historic museums, one Picasso museum and the house of his birth.

So loaded up, we first went to our resting place ( camping site), that was about 20 minutes from the center of Malaga and not that expensive at all. What I did not expect of Spain before actually going there was how well its infrastructure is developed. There is very cheap train service everywhere and busses are even cheaper!

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Going on a tour at our new “home”, we discovered an awesome beach (unfortunately no photo), with palm trees next to it. I love palm trees!

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When we finally made it to Malaga (not because it is so far, but because we were very busy discovering our locality), it was already night. I don’t know what is more impressive, Malaga at night or Malaga at day, but I have to say both are pretty freaking impressive!

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Another great thing about Spain is the food. The cuisine is of high quality and very tasty, and it is not even that expensive. Tapas are great for every opportunity and paellas are just tasty!

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Of course, we are missing something here, or are we? No, because the Turkish Donerman is everywhere!

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And once you are done with sightseeing, you can go get your culture fix (or take a picture in front of a museum to tell your parents you educate yourself), visiting one of the many museums or historic churches.

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I like the architecture of the buildings in the city center, the city council seems to be doing a good job maintaining everything.

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And for some relaxation there are plenty of little parks scattered throughout the city.

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Lake Bafa

Mass tourism might work for some. But it’s not really my cup of tea. I don’t like to visit crowded, overrated and overpriced places, full with tourists, their cameras and their…peculiar behaviour. To really discover a country, one must go off the commonly known roads. Visit the land and the people.

And off the road we went! During our tour of the Turkish west coast we discovered hidden gem after hidden gem. One of these gems was Lake Bafa.

Lake Bafa is on the eastern coast of Turkey, about 2 hours from Izmir, and 1 hour from Aydin. Hidden between mountains, forrests, and little Turkish villages, it is still untouched by industrialization and tourism. The road leading up to the lake is easy to find, but the closer one gets, the more off road one has to go. We actually missed the direct road to the lake and went to a closeby village and a road hugging a mountain and overlooking the lake. The sign leading to the lake looked like out of an old western movie, so of course we missed it and went the other way around the lake.

Tugged between mountains, surrounded by forrests, many little Turkish villages are around Lake Bafa. Unfortunately nobody on the Turkish countryside speaks English, but if you know even a few words of Turkish, those villagers will love you. If you have the opportunity to make friends with them, do it, because those will be some of the nicest and most gentle people you have ever met!

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When we finally got to the lake, we were welcome by Turkish fisherboats. For some of the people living in the area fishing is the only way with which they can support their families. The landscape, the heat and the boats reminded me of an Indiana Jones movie so bad!

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Lake Bafa is a huge lake and national conservation site, with thousands of rare species forming a unique eco system. Surprisingly, it has not been discovered by many tourists. On the main (asphalted) road around the lake are several little restaurants and villages. All villages have little cafes with awesome local food for very economic prices.

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We drove up a road hugging a nearby mountain, it was kind of bumpy but nothing our little jeep couldn’t handle. To our left and right the mountain got really steep as we were climbing up the road, revealing a marvelous view onto the lake.

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The trouble was worth it. We were seeing stone formations to our left and our right, and in front of us was great Lake Bafa. This is how pioneers and adventurers must have felt!

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On our way back we were surprised by a heard of mountain cows! At first there were just a few. As you can see, they are rather skinny. No wonder looking at the “lush” veggetation all around.

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But they got more and more! For a second or two we were scared the cows wanted to eat us and overtake the world…but we realized that only happens in bad horror movies or equally bad parodies.

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After this unplanned hike into the woods, we also got a look at Lake Bafa from a more…fortified position.

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After enjoying a few teas and a great meal at one of the villages around Lake Bafa, we called  it a day and headed home.

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6 tips for traveling Turkey

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Even though Turkey is a beautiful country with a great landscape, a rich culture and probably the best hosts in the world, it gets overlooked a lot of times. Most of the time it is identified with off the shelf, boring tour travel.
But it can be more than that! Discover how you can get the best out of your trip

1) Be careful with your flight
Good care must be taken for the planing of the flight. Depending on from where you want to fly in, tickets can be very cheap. Berlin has a huge Turkish community (the biggest in the world, to be precise) so there are several flights to and from Turkey every day, and they are rather cheap. Other major German cities are not as blessed, but compared to other countries you can still get a good deal. The picture is, of course, different in other countries. For example, going to or coming from France is substantially more expensive.

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At the end it really depends on how thorough you search and a little bit of luck. Use all the major search engines to find the best flight for yourself.
A word of caution: try flying with Turkish Airways if you can. They have the best service, airplanes in good shape and great pilots, a lot of them former air force officers. They are a little more expensive, but they are a star alliance member, so you can earn points if you have a frequent flyer card.

2) Plan your transportation
If you are from Europe or America, Turkey is a really cheap country. It has a good transportation system between cities that is also very cheap, but there is one problem. Information is a scarce resource in Turkey. In cities it is really hard to find out which bus goes where! There are no printed plans on bus stations and the guys sitting in the tourist office have no idea. The best way is to ask around. And who needs buses anyway? It is was cooler to walk around, you get to see a lot more! When I was in Istanbul the last time I was constantly walking, discovering new sights and just enjoying the city.
If you want to stay in the city where your plane lands, try to find out how to get to your place from the main bus station of the city. At the airport there are always little buses (called Havas) that go to the main bus station and sometimes they even stop at the major places of the city. No need for a taxi! If you are staying out of town there are buses to all major cities and if you don’t arrive at an odd time, like 3 in the morning, you will find a bus. Try getting on one of Metro’s buses, their service is the best and their buses are the most comfortable.
To go to small towns and little villages in the area you can hop on one of Turkey’s famous Dolmus. Dolmus means” full” in Turkish, which is a very fitting name because the driver takes as many people as he can. These Dolmus are small buses that offer very cheap fares between cities. You can get on and off wherever you want. Don’t be scared, they might look old and worn and a little bit unsafe, but accidents involving Dolmus are very rare.

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3) Ask questions
You will find out that Turkey has some of the nicest people around. They love foreigners that come to discover their country, and they will love to help you and give you directions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! The older generations don’t know any English though, so if you are not willing to learn a few words and phrases you will have a hard time communicating. If you ask locals what sights are around that are worth visiting, you will get to know a ton of locations that are not crowded by tourists. When we went to rent a car we asked about cool places in the area and ended up visiting two ancient Greek settlings (Priene and Millet) that were devoid of tourists (compare this to Ephesus where you can’t walk without stepping on a tourist) and an awesome Natural Park (Lake Bafa) with literally no person around! Don’t be afraid, ask questions!

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4) Be careful with alcohol
This is an important one. Every year many tourists get alcohol poisoning and every few years people die because of this! Do NOT, I repeat, NOT drink alcohol of whichs origin you are not sure! The tax for alcohol is very high in Turkey, so there is a high demand for illegally produced (and therefore cheaper) liquor. Sometimes restaurants and tour operators are so greedy they take the risk.
Whenever you buy alcohol, check if the bottle has not been opened and there is a security holograph. Avoid drinking alcohol when you go on boat tours and in restaurants. Play safe.

5) Don’t get ripped off
Like in every touristic and poor country (compared to central Europe), people will try to rip you off. Turkey has some of the nicest, and some of the worst people. Always be cautious and use common sense. Don’t get in cars of people you don’t know, if you are a woman try not to go in bars or cars where there are only men.
If you want to buy something anywhere except a supermarket, don’t pay the price they tell you. Vendors always have a trade margin, and since they see you are foreign they will double (and sometimes even triple!) the price. So you wanna buy something? Good, find out how much it really costs, do some research and try to talk the guy down! Your first offer should always be half or third of the first offer of the vendor. Be hard, and be ready to walk away! You will find it somewhere else, and you can use your first encouter as a leverage to get a better price.

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6) Watch your stuff

Touristic places everywhere around the world are unfortunately filled with scum…people who will try to still your stuff. Carry your important belongings on your body, always have an eye on your backpack and luggage and treat other people with a grain of common sense and suspicion.

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