Category Archives: General Experiance

Italy, Rich Culture and History Where the Wine Flows like Water

Welcome to Italy,

Venice

Venice is a gigantic floating playground for adults with its great wine, food and rich in culture & history. A short and unique history lesson of the creation of Venice is around 400 AD after the fall of the Roman empire, Barbarians from Northern Europe swept down in droves raping and pillaging everything they could of the fallen empire. So frightened people took refuge on the Venetian lagoon in the Adriatic and built small shanty’s on stilts above it such that the barbarians with their lack of knowledge of the sea and water could not get to them. And thus, Venice was born, officially coming into existence in 421AD.

Most hotels, hostels and accommodations are very old buildings which will require an actual key to gain access. There is no modern tech on the island besides credit card machines and ATMs. And since this is all on an island where the mass amounts of tourism garbage have to be taken out and picked up by hand, loaded onto boats and taken back to the main land. And vice versa, all commodities have to be loaded up and taken over by boat, Venice tends to be a fairly expensive place to visit. There are many man/women hours dedicated to making this a highly functional and effective tourist destination. Most Even the high end, what they call 5-star accommodation is still very old and dingy looking. But I think that is part of its appeal. You go there to transition back into the past a century or so.

Venice is surprisingly larger than it appears. If you decide to walk the entire island in one day like I did, you will quickly find out that it is an entire day excursion and you will get lost in the maze of small corridors and alleyways multiple times. But this is part of the excitement of it. Everything looks the same but along the way you stumble upon very cool things, monuments, statues, great little hidden cafes and restaurants with amazing views.

There are a multitude of taxi boat services available for a reasonable price strictly for transportation or for a scenic cruise down the Grand Canal. Be sure to visit the Rialto Bridge and grab a selfie with it.  A spectacular Stone Arch bridge originally built in the 12th century as a pontoon bridge then transformed into a wooden bridge in the 13th century but after a few collapses was then transformed into the stone bridge it is today in the 16th century.

Of course, you will have to take an iconic gondola ride while in Venice. There is no shortage of them, but buyer be ware this is going to cost you 80 Euros for only a half hour ride. A good idea if on a budget is find another couple and share a gondola as then will be 40 Euros each and you’ll have personal photographers aboard with you for that perfect romantic couples’ picture under and arced bridge in a narrow canal.

Pisa

I visited Pisa with the sole intention on getting the stupidly ironic picture pretending to hold up the leaning tower. I didn’t think much of the Leaning tower of Pisa before I had actually seen it with my own eyes. But when I rounded that corner and first gazed upon its leaning beauty, I was completely blown away. Its much bigger than it looks in pictures and yes, it has quit an impressive lean. I had to take a few moments and just stare at it and take it all in. I would definitely recommend visiting Pisa and seeing it with your own eyes.

I also didn’t do any research on Pisa whatso ever before I arrives. I was blown away about how friendly the locals were in this town. Compared to Venice, where the locals are just slaves to the tourism industry, the locals in Pisa where very friendly, genuinely interested in where you came from and wanted desperately to strike up conversation with you. The town of Pisa itself was incredibly beautiful with The Arno river dividing the town. The locals gather at night on the rivers edge to have drinks and socialize. Around 9pm, we had decided to grab a bottle of wine and a couple of cups, and just sit along the high stone wall above the river on that magically calm and peaceful night. People watching and socializing with the odd passer by, this was actually one of my fondest memories of Italy.

We decided on an Airbnb on the outside of town being that is was much cheaper than a hotel and much nicer, the town had adequate transportation and bus routes available.

Cinque Terre

Aahhh Cinque Terre! I don’t think you have to speak Italian to figure out that this translates to Five towns. Five little fishing villages along the Liguria Coast line, extremely rich in history, so much so you can, and people have written thesis papers on it. So, I will not go into that, but essentially now in the recent passed the area has exploded with tourism because of their shear quaintness and cliff side beauty of the towns. If you come to Italy, definitely go visit each and every one of the five towns consisting of, Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso. You don’t have to stay in every town, and it is possible to see all the towns in 2 days, but id recommend at least 3 days stay. Pick one town or if you like to be on the move then pick two towns to stay in. id recommend staying in Riomaggiore. It was my favorite with affordable pricing and being at the very south end, you can work your way up north.

Monterosso

Manarola

Corniglia

Vernazza

Riomaggiore

It is possible to walk from town to town, on a trail known as Sentiero Azzurro or Azure Trail. but be warned this feat will take up most of your day, and these are mountainous terrain, with very steep inclines and lots of stairs. You should be in peak physical condition to even think about attempting this. Also, the section from Riomaggiore to Manarola called the Via dell’Amore or the Love Walk is now closed. It is still possible to walk between these villages, but that trail is even steeper and much longer. There is a highly convenient train system in place between the towns, in which connects with the outside city’s as well on the North and South, with trains coming and going every 15 minutes for a very reasonable price. The train ride between towns is literally 2-5 minutes. The train ride offers brief spectacular views of the ocean side as well. So much better then hours upon hours of walking up steep inclines and stairs. Trust me, you’ll have enough stairs while exploring inside of each town anyhow.

The seafood in Cinque Terre is Phenomenal. As a matter of fact, all the food is fantastic here. Plenty of liquor stores and side stores to grab a bottle of wine and just sit on a bench up top of a cliff side and enjoy a glass of red at sunset and watch the sun go down over the ocean’s horizon. Cinque Terre is truly beautiful and encompasses the true heart and feeling of Italy.

Rome

Rome is a Huge City. Even the locals that grew up in Rome have a saying that “One can spend an entire lifetime in this city and never see all of it”. There is never ending history and art here. With the many different areas, districts and even an entire country with in the confines of the city called the Vatican, which in itself has one of the largest treasure troves of history and art with in its walls on the planet. Rome is truly one of the most magical places on Planet Earth.

I only spent a couple of days in this city so I can only speak for a couple of iconic and Instagram able places such as the Trevi fountain. If you expect to get that legendary selfie with no one else around, you’d better plan to show up around 6am just as the sun comes up. Otherwise it is overrun with tourists. With what id estimate as 100 pictures being taken per second in an average afternoon at this fountain, the fountain itself has a rich history. It is the largest fountain in the city and therefor the most famous.

If you are a Roman history buff or even if you are not, go visit the Roman forum and be blown away with the buildings and construction techniques of those ancient times. You can’t begin to understand the size of these buildings, columns and pillars they were erecting back then with purely man power until you gaze upon them with your own eyes. Learn the Roman ruler chain history timeline and be impressed with little fats such as the Romans didn’t have currency but only gold reserves. Therefor everything for the roman people was free with in the city back in those great times. They used slaves to do all the hard work and to serve them in any way imaginable.

Of course, you have to visit the Colosseum while in Rome as well. Dwarfing modern day Hockey arena’s, the Colosseum could hold from 50,000 – 80,000 people. Splurge and buy the private tour of the inside. It is totally worth the price to stand inside those walls where great mock battles took place and one on one real life combat happened where thousands of gladiators and animals lost their lives in shows of entertainment. Rulers/governments distracting the public from the political problems of the upper class with great spectacles of sport and theater was born in this era and still continues to be the main tool of government manipulation and distraction of the masses of people today.

If you want to hang out where the locals like to go to browse little shops along the waters edge of the Tiber River, head to Trastevere district. The prices in restaurants is cheap due to this being less of a touristy area and the food is delicious.

Rome is truly one of the most magnificent cities’ in the world and you should definitely check it out. The many little piles of old ancient roman ruins with in the city guarded by little fences is worth it alone. Like miniature world heritage sites.  It is very multicultural with many foody options and amazing shops everywhere to purchase trinkets and gifts for friends before you go home.

Italy

Landscape – 10/10

Food – 9/10

Price – $$$ (really fluctuates from town to town and also in different areas of each city comes different prices.)

Alcohol Price – $$

 

Trolltunga – Norway

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Welcome to Norway

The Tongue of the Troll! I didn’t really have too much hiking experience before I had decided to embark on the most extreme hike of my life. I had read plenty about this hike before hand and most experienced hikers were putting this one into the category of a “serious” hike. Somewhere in between Moderate and Extreme! and I have to say that is a highly accurate statement. Located in Tyssedal, Norway, this 20-28km hike is the most gorgeous area of the world I have ever seen. From sheer cliffs with beautiful lake views to enormous waterfalls gushing millions of liters of water per day, I will tell you right now, all of Norway for that matter is one big gigantic gorgeous post card. It doesn’t matter where you are in this country, you will have an epic selfie, worthy of becoming your newest Facebook profile photo. I highly recommend you put Norway on your bucket list. However bring your wallet, because this country is hands down one of the most expensive countries i have ever been to! I hear Greenland is worse, but I digress. Yhe country also seems to have a major anti alcohol agenda. A single beer at the liquor store will cost you between four to seven dollars Canadian. And yes they only sell beer as single bottles in Norway. So when you pick up that 12 pack and look at the price of 44 NOK ($7/Canadian) and think wow that’s cheap, don’t be fooled and end up paying 536NOK ($84 Canadian) for a case like i did! The price is displayed per bottle. That and the fact that the liquer stores all close at 6pm. However you can buy beer at the grocery store or markets, if you wanna get a drink after 6pm and have missed the liquer store. You can go to a bar or pub, but a beer there will be at least double that price. I recommend you visit other European countries, that celebrate your alcoholism first, then use Norway as a half way point in your vacation in order to sober up and enjoy some amazing nature. Go hiking, get back in shape before heading of to another party area of Europe!

Lets dive into Trolltunga. How do you get there? okay, what I recommend and did for myself was, fly into Stavenger, a town of only 150,000 people or so, and spend one night there. Rent a car, get some groceries, either you should bring a tent with you or buy one there, gather up all necessary supplies for the drive and hike and then head out to a small town close to Tyssedal Norway. Personally i stayed in Odda at Odda camping. it was a great little campground full of friendly foreign hikers and expats working in the town for the summer. Great vibes by all. You are going to want to wake up super early in the morning in order to head to the starting point of Trolltunga located in Skjeggedal. you’ll take a right turn in Tyssedal where it says Skjeggedal & trolltunga car park. You are going to want to arrive at the car park no later than 5:30am if you want to have a hope in hell in being able to drive the first 4km of brutal uphill to the upper car park. The upper car park has about 30 car spaces, so the first 30 cars lined up in the queue for that will be the lucky ones. A true case of the early bird gets the worm. This will shave 8km off of your hike. Which is why i said earlier about the hike being anywhere from 20-28km long. Don’t do what i did and arrive at the initial car park and pay thinking it was the upper most car park. I was there at 5am and I could have made the line for the upper car park but thought i was already there. The lower car park im speaking of holds probably around 100 cars. just for your own reference when you arrive. Anyhow long story short, I did the 28km roundtrip hike. The first 4km from the lower car park is walking on paved road up to the upper car park, which is a pretty extreme uphill walk consisting of switch back roads. Youll be questioning whether or not you will be able to do another 24km of this. But dont worry, from the upper car park the real trail begins. Your next 1 km will be slowly rolling up and down hills, just enough to make you start thinking “oh man this hike will be easy from here on out”. however if you think that youll be dead wrong. because the next 3km are pretty extreme up hill mountain side as well. Dont worry there is no rock climbing or cliff face repelling or anything. Im just saying its a daunting elevation gain. In total youll gain 900 meters of elevation before the hike is through. the last 4km are ups and downs which are nice because they even each other out. This is my favorite part of the hike. Especially the last 1km because you know you are getting close and the adrenalin starts flowing heavily and you are so excited you dont even realize how exhausted you are anymore. Then you crest that final hill and it all opens up right in front of your eyes as if you were blind and had a miracle occur and you’ve just seen your very first sunrise! One of the most magnificent views I have ever had bestowed upon me! Trolltunga! spend a few hours there, have some lunch and a rest, take a few hundred pics for editing them later and you are set to turn around and make the long 10-14km hike back to your vehicle. In total i did the hike in about 10 hours. that was with an hour at the rock ledge. But i had a really steady pace going the entire time, with only one quick sandwich break each way.

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There are bus transportation options as well from the nearest towns that you can look into if you didn’t want to rent a vehicle. But if you are going to Norway, you’ll want to check out some of the other amazing places and hikes they have available such as Kjeragbolton rock and Preikstolen. These are just two examples you can look into if you havent heard of them before I highly recommend you google them. Unfortunately when I was there it rained everyday except one and that was the day I went to Trolltunga. And be warned, they will shut down these trails if it is raining so you’ll want to have a few days at each place as a buffer zone in case the weather is bad.

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Supplies for hike; at the minimum you should have, a backpack, flashlight, rain jacket and pants, warm sweaters, food for the day, enough water for yourself, hiking boots, hat and sunglasses. They recommend that you should bring walking sticks with you, but those people piss me off so i’m not recommending that at all. You’ll look like a douche with them and nature didn’t intend us to walk with sticks.

There will be a lot of people hiking this trail with you and there will be a long queue for the picture-taking at the rock ledge. So be prepared for that. A lot of people had full camping gear with them. You are allowed to set up a tent along the trail, but off the trail and camp over night. But for god sakes take all of your garbage with you and I don’t think you are allowed to have fires either. Anyhow, if you decide to camp out over night you’ll be able to get great pictures at the cliff at sunrise and sunset. Be careful not to get up in the middle of the night to pee and fall off of a cliff!

Norway

  • Nature/Landscape – 10/10
  • Food – 4/10 (not very good)
  • Price – $$$$$
  • Alcohol Price – $$$$$
  • Locals – Super friendly and all spoke English