Denmark: Copenhagen – the fairytale city

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General information: Copenhagen is the capital of Denmark, a country located in northern Europe. People there speak Danish, a Germanic language, similar to German and English. But, almost all Danes also speak English quite well. The currency used is the Danish crown, even if the country is part of the European Union. Remember that not everyone implemented the euro as their national currency. Copenhagen does not reach even a million inhabitants, so it’s a not so big city, it´s quiet, perfect to enjoy it.

What to see?

Tourist attractions  :

1) The Little Mermaid, clearly. The famous monument of the character of the fairy tale written by the Danish Hans Christian Andersen, is one of the main tourist attractions of the city. It’s a small monument, but so powerful and it causes so many emotions that I understand why it’s so popular. I could spend hours looking at the monument. Unfortunately, there are many tourists around and some are very disrespectful. It’s very sad that people are like this, but the little mermaid doesn’t lose its charm. In fact, it even seems that the way her head is turned is to look more to the sea and not even look at those curious who come to bother her. Her kingdom is the sea. That moment, all that it represents reminds me of the poem by Charles Baudelaire, called Albatross: “Exilé sur le sol au milieu des huées, ses ailes de géant l’empêchent de marcher.”

2) Nyhavn: When someone uploads a photo of Copenhagen to social in 90% of cases it’s a photo of Nyhavn. Now that I say that name, it sure doesn’t sound like anything to you, but believe me, you would easily recognize that place. Basically, it’s a canal surrounded by houses of many different colors of course there is a bridge where everyone is taking photos.

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France part 1 : the magic of Paris

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How many articles have been written, how many films have been made, how many photos have been taken, how many stories have been told about “le charme” of Paris, that mythical French capital. Many, infinite, in so many different languages. Paris was, is and will continue to be a source of inspiration for everyone: artists of all kinds, travelers, everyone … Here are my impressions of this impressive city that I visited twice and I know there will be a third time.

General information : With its 10 million inhabitants it’s one of the largest European cities. It’s also a very expensive city, which is not surprising if we know that it’s the center of the second economic power of the European Union as well as one of the most visited tourist destinations in the world. The currency used is the euro. People speak French and yes, it’s convenient to learn at least a few words of that language to be able to communicate and also because the French people appreciate if someone tries to speak to them in their native language. As in all large cities, you have to be careful with thieves. Do not be obsessed, just take care of your things.

How to get around the city?

By metro – it’s quite fast, we use this kind of transport a lot, much more than the bus for example. In such a big city it’s the easiest, especially if you don’t have so much time and want to see more things.

How to come?

I was going by bus for the first time from Croatia and it is an experience that I do not suggest to anyone because there are many hours and time = money, so take a plane, you save a lot of nerves and bad times. The second time I was going from Brussels and we took a bus, but you can go by train anyway – it’s a bit more expensive and quite fast.

Where to stay?

I would recommend an Air bnb or something like that if there are more people, it was quite good for us, and also we were not that far from the things we wanted to see because if you stay outside the city then you will have to take RER, the train that goes to the suburbs and it’s quite dangerous at night, especially if you don’t know the neighborhood . So it’s best to book a bit in advance so that it’s cheaper, but to have a good connection by metro or bus.

What to eat?

Please don’t eat just at Mc’Donalds. If you don’t have money to eat well for at least one day in France, go to other countries. That advice would give me the “me” of now to the me of the first time in Paris. Why? Well, because it’s important to try some of the local gastronomy and also because Mc’Donalds / KFC and the rest are pure junk food and do not give the energy to walk around Paris all day. Anyway, what you have to try is: croissants, crepes, creme brulee, some meat … if you don’t have money to eat well, better buy a gyros or kebab, or a sandwich at the bakery or supermarket, at least they are fresher and healthier ingredients, don’t go to junk food places, Paris is huge and beautiful, you will want to see it all and you will die of exhaustion if you only eat at the mentioned junk food chains. I insist on that because I made that mistake the first time and I don’t want it to happen to others. There are beautiful European countries and cities where food is cheap and accessible to everyone. Don’t be prejudiced. Bosnia is as wonderful as France, and there you can eat well in the local restaurants. Here I am going to stop because I see that I strayed a bit from the topic.

Tourist attractions :

1) Montmartre: for now my favorite place in the city. First, because it’s located on a hill from where one has a spectacular view of the entire city. Second, because there is also the Sacré coeur basilica. In other words, turning to one side, the beautiful basilica and from the other, that view. Amazing. That sure looks like a movie. And also, the entire Montmartre neighborhood is known as “the artists’ quarter” with a lot of galleries and works of art, long and narrow streets, many cafes where they offer breakfast at a good price … the whole neighborhood is so beautiful and it is for sure the first place I will go when I return to Paris. I could spend a whole day there.

2) the Eiffel Tower – the symbol of Paris, even if nobody wanted it when they built it and they said it made the city ugly. Honestly, it’s not something spectacular, after all it is an iron tower. In my opinion there are many more beautiful things, but of course, if you are already in Paris go see it, take a couple of photos and bye.

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The same goes for the Louvre museum, I was twice in Paris, but I didn’t feel like going inside (even if the entrance is free for those under 26) Instead, I preferred to go elsewhere or wait for my friends while I had a delicious coffee and a couple of as well delicious macarons. My weakness is coffee and cafeterias and in Paris there are so many that have such a good atmosphere. I bought a couple of books for one or two euros – there are open markets in the city center with cheap old books – and I went to a cafe with a very nice view, quite close to the opera. In Louvre there are always a lot of people, they all want to take photos and you can’t enjoy art, that’s what everyone who was inside told me. As a good Croatian, I prefer to use that time to have a good coffee in peace.

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3) The Champs Elysees: it is actually a giant avenue with trees next to the street, and the beginning of the avenue is at the Arc de Triomphe, made by Napoleon Bonaparte. It is undoubtedly the most famous avenue in Paris and one of the most famous worldwide. There are all the luxury stores you can imagine, including Chanel, Cartier … it’s nice to walk there even if you don’t want / can buy anything.

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4) Luxembourg Park: in my opinion, the most beautiful and pleasant park from the city. It is a kind of oasis within that giant city. It has it all: flowers, lakes, palaces, a lot of green, tranquility – there are chairs by the lake and people will sit and enjoy a moment of peace.

5) Quartier Latin (the Latin Quarter): it is a quite cheerful neighborhood ( especially the part called Saint Michel), full of shops, noise, small restaurants, very lively at night, but it is also close to several important monuments such as Notre Dame or the Pantheon. The history of this neighborhood is quite interesting because during the 20th century it has been the meeting point of many Latin American artists, who came to Paris for different reasons, some to be famous, to make themselves known or simply to be at the world center of events. of fashions, trends, learning, representing your country and teaching others about the country they come from.

Personal Observation: As I already mentioned, I visited this beautiful city twice and I hope to visit it again very soon. It’s a huge city where I think there will always be something new to see. The architecture of Paris captivates, as its small cafes and “creperies” where you can breathe that French identity so connected to gastronomy and that very French sense of a detail. I think this city is a very good option for those who travel alone, because it is so interesting that they will not even realize that they are moving around the city alone. But both times I traveled with other people. The first time I didn’t like the experience, I think it would have been better to travel alone. The second time I was with a small group of friends and it was great. Unfortunately we were only able to stay for the weekend. I look forward to the next time in Paris, alone, with friends, family, whatever … Paris is always a good idea.

London part 2 : what everybody wanna see

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General Information: London, as most people know, is the capital of England and the United Kingdom. It’s a cosmopolitan city, expensive (not as much as they say, but still yes) and giant. It has about 12 million inhabitants with the surroundings. It’s a city where you can find everything and it’s truly fascinating. I didn’t expect it to be this way and I didn’t have so many expectations, because I had an already created image of a distant, cold and gray London and, nevertheless, again the travels overthrew my prejudices. It’s the best thing about travel.

In this article I am going to list which are more or less the places that one “has to see” if you travel for the first time there. If that doesn’t interest you, well then read my previous article, where I talk about the most alternative things that not everyone sees and that seemed to me the most beautiful of all.

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London part 1: what not everyone sees

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In this article I would like to talk a bit about a face of London that not all tourists really see. As it’s a giant city, there are a lot of important things to do and see, especially if you go for less than a week. I already had a list of less flashy and touristy things that I wanted to see, but it also helped me to spend the afternoon with a Croatian friend who lives there and took me to see the things that she likes. You know that I always like (if possible) to have a local experience because you always find out very curious things. So in this article I leave you with what I recommend you to see in London.

1) City: it’s a very interesting part of the city. It’s the financial headquarters of the whole UK and beyond, it’s the city within a city, since it has a certain autonomy. Why is this allowed only in the case of City? Because it’s a part of the city that brings a lot of money to the British government budget. The money comes, nobody cares how and where, and the economy continues. It is a neoliberal utopia, within a more socialist country, in my opinion. What you can see in City, plus thousands upon thousands of people in fancy outfits running to get their sandwich, eat early, and head back to the office, is Sky Garden, one of numerous skyscrapers with spectacular views of the entire both City and city. And best of all, it’s free. Of course, you must sign up in advance, a few weeks at least, it’s very easy, everything is done online.

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Portugal part 2 : Coimbra

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General Information: The city of Coimbra is roughly halfway from Porto to Lisbon. It’s actually closer to Porto. It’s a university city and has around 150,000 inhabitants. In other words, it’s not a big city and you can see everything you want by walking. Ok, there may be some hills so you kind of need to be in shape for Coimbra but it’s a good training.

How to get there?

I went by train, it’s not such a long trip and it’s very beautiful to see the landscapes. Of course, back it was longer because the train was slower and we stopped in all the small towns, even had a time for some coffee in Aveiro.

Where to eat?

The showcases of so many restaurants, cafes and bakeries invite you to enter. I loved the food, it doesn’t matter where you eat, whether sweet or salty, everything is delicious.

Tourist attractions:

1) The University of Coimbra: it’s the oldest in Portugal and among the oldest in all Europe. In addition to the quality of its study programs, it’s famous for the peculiar clothing of its students, the same that inspired the famous British author J.K. Rowling for the official costumes of Hogwarts students. I only visited one part of the building because it was getting late, but by the time I get back I have to go to the library, they say it’s very nice.

 

2) The Santa Cruz monastery: a very nice monastery founded in the 12th century. I recommend entering because the walls are full of tiles, which I love and could stay to see them the whole day.

Personal observation: Honestly, I traveled to Coimbra just to see the university and the students clothing, because this is where J.K. Rowling was inspired by the Harry Potter saga. But, I will describe that in another article that will talk about my wanderings around the places connected to the Harry Potter story. Spending a day in Coimbra was very beautiful, I must admit, with or without Harry Potter things, Coimbra has magic and the visit is worth it. Actually, I think it could even be two days, a weekend, to be able to see and enjoy the city well. It’s nice and there is good food everywhere, quite a temptation. So I think my friend and I spend more time eating and drinking coffee than walking around the town.

What I have seen of Portugal so far (and I hope to see much more in the future) implies that good people live there, that they eat well, that there is a lot of history, culture and art out there, at each step a different legend, an old tradition, something special, … but also, it must be recognized that the country recently experienced an economic crisis. Of course, there are many tourists who don’t realize it, because they are on vacation just wanna relax and nothing else matters. But it seemed very evident to me, so many damaged facades, the depopulation, the pessimism of the Portuguese are out there, they float in the air and are easy to grasp. After all, it is the homeland of fado and saudade, melancholy and regret run through their veins. Don’t be fooled by appearances, Portuguese may seem Spanish and Mediterranean, but in reality they are not. They are from the Atlantic, much calmer and more nostalgic. Well, besides when they are partying. Because if I know something well, it’s the nightlife of the north of Portugal, and I can say that these people from the Atlantic have quite a good time. At the party there are no regrets, they are left in oblivion to remember them the next morning.

Small dictionary of Portuguese :

Hi – Olà

How are you ? – Como vai?

Where is… ? – Onde está?

When is the next train ? – Quando é o próximo trem?

Thanks – Obrigado

You’re welcome –Por favor

Welcome – Bemvindo

Check, please – A conta, por favor.

Can I please have a coffee with milk ? – Um café com leite, por favor.

I love this town. – Eu amo essa cidade.

How much is it ? – Quanto custa?

Portugal part 1 : party in Porto

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General information: Porto is the second largest city in Portugal, with some 300,000 inhabitants. It’s located in the north of the country and is considered the capital of the north. It’s a beautiful, safe and cheap city, at least I would describe it like that. The currency they use is the euro and they speak Portuguese. As it’s a tourist country, there are quite a lot of people who speak at least basic English or Spanish so if you don’t speak Portuguese (I’ll leave you a small vocabulary in the second article, just in case), you’ll be however able to communicate with people.

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Gran canaria part 2: classic tourism

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General information: Gran Canaria is the largest island in the entire archipelago of the Canary Islands, located in the Atlantic ocean, a three-hour flight from Brussels and with the time change of one hour (less). Sometimes people get confused and believe that the Canary Islands are next to peninsular Spain, but no, those are the Balearic Islands – you know Palma de Mallorca, Ibiza and those famous things. The Canary Islands are next to Morocco, so geographically seen they are not even in Europe, but in Africa. Canary Islands are 7: Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura, Tenerife, Gomera, Lanzarote, La Palma, El Hierro. The islands have a population of around 2 million inhabitants. The capital, located in the north of Gran Canaria, is Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, better known as Las Palmas, with some 400,000 inhabitants. The currency is the euro, as in the rest of Spain. It’s a very safe tourist destination, you can go there alone without any problem.

How are the people?

The Canarians are Spanish, but they are much more like Latinos than as Spanish, with an accent, mentality and lifestyle. Relaxing, always in a good mood, kind, taking the necessary time and more than that to say hello and talk to their friends and those who are going to become their friends, eating and drinking well : all off that is essential for many Canarians. It’s not enough to say that I liked the people, no, I loved them.

How to get there?

By plane or by boat, depending on where. But since it’s an island, the most common thing is to go there by plane. Gran Canaria airport is located in the south of the island and it’s very easy and cheap to go by bus to Las Palmas from the airport. Well, they came to pick me up, but for going back I took a bus.

What to eat?

You have to take advantage of those good prices (taxes on the island are very low, therefore the prices are low too) and eat in restaurants every day hahaha, the obligatory thing is clearly fish, but in the end you can eat anything, it’s good and cheap. Also, something typical of the Canary Islands is “leche y leche”, that is, coffee with condensed milk. A bit too sweet for my taste, but it’s necessary to try, it’s something very typical from there.

Tourist attractions :

1) Playa de las Canteras: One of my favorite places on the island. It’s a beach that simply attracts one to be there and stroll to exhaustion and then have a coffee always with a view of sea, waves and surfers practicing there. I even think that after San Sebastián beach (in the Basque Country) it’s the most beautiful beach I have seen in Spain. For now, I need to travel more.

2) the dunes of Maspalomas – that is something where you can find all the tourists and almost no Canarians, except if they work there. In the south of the island there are a couple of small towns made for tourists already in the last century when the Canary Islands began to open up to mass tourism, that old and typical “sun and beach” tourism, which was what people from the north of Europe were looking for. Right now you could see many retirees from northern Europe who spend part of the year in the Canary Islands and another in the countries from which they originate. Why? Well, in the north you don’t have sun for 6 months and in Canary Islands you have the eternal spring. It’s also common to see families with young children staying in those resorts next to the dunes. I understand the logic, the Canarians got money and jobs there but also took tourists away from the city, so they avoided rising food / rent / everything prices and also prevented tourists from invading their lifestyle. Apparently, tourists and locals alike benefit from such tourism. Anyway, returning to the dunes, is considered to be an extension of Sahara, which is very near by and, with the help of the strong wind, sends some of its sand to the Canary Islands.

3) shopping malls: Don’t make them fool you, in Gran Canaria there are many shopping malls because tourists buy a lot, not because Canarians love shopping. The Canary Islands have a privileged status when it comes to taxes, a decision by the Spanish government so that people don’t leave the islands as much. The price of food, clothing, rentals and everything is incredibly low for such a popular tourist destination. That is why shopping malls flourish, there are a lot, and the same brands that would be much more expensive there are cheaper, so I also bought a couple of things, of course, to feel a little more like the typical tourist from the north – I came from Brussels, where I currently live. A quality coat that in Belgium or in any other country I would pay 60/70 euros there I paid 20.

4) La Vegueta – the old and colonial part of Las Palmas. It reminded me a lot of South America, I wonder why. There is the cathedral and a couple of pretty churches, there is the house of Cristobál Colón, many places to go with friends and eat something, there is a street full of cafes and shops, there is the university … there are several beautiful things to see, I recommend you to pass one day there.

5) the continental part of the island: it’s nice to go to Pico de las Nieves (the highest peak of the island) or at least to go through some viewpoints, such as Unamuno (the detailed description in the previous article, you ‘ll see why) or anyone else really, because you’ll have a spectacular view and literally be above the clouds, it’s a beautiful feeling.

Personal observation:

Unlike the first article in which I told you about all the unexpected adventures of my trip to the Canary Islands, in this one I told you what I think most of the people who visit Gran Canaria do. Stroll along the sandy beaches, go for a leche y leche or dine in a restaurant with a good view – what is normally the ocean view, go to the shopping mall, go to the dunes of Maspalomas, visit the Vegueta. I honestly don’t know how I managed to do all this and everything that I had already explained in the previous post in so few days. Didn’t I sleep? I hardly stayed for a week. Sometimes I surprise myself. And well, that was a relaxing vacation, not to mention my most active trips haha ​​that are even crazier.

Although I traveled alone to Gran Canaria, I was with my friends who live there almost every day, so I was really able to get a good insight into the culture and daily life of a Canarian person. I am aware that few people have the privilege of meeting many people from there, of going through the villages, of staying in a hacienda in Santa María de Guía de Gran Canaria (sound like a telenovela I know) with a view of the sea and the banana crops. Apparently I’m lucky in this life, I don’t know what else to say. Although I believe that in part you get to deserve the luck with your acts. So, the conclusion is that it’s clearly more beautiful to go where you know someone, because there is the guarantee that you will have a good time. But in any case, Gran Canaria is a tourist destination that everyone can enjoy, whether you know someone there or not.

Gran Canaria part 1: adventure tourism – all included

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To clarify the doubts, from the very beginning, when choosing to go on vacation to Gran Canaria for a week, I was not looking for adventure tourism, and even less any kind of adrenaline. No. I wanted to escape the Belgian cold like the swallows that escape to the south. I thought it was a beautiful island with many retirees from northern Europe who drink their coffee, eat, look at the beach, take a walk and THAT’S IT. Without haste, without follies, a life so, but soo calm that it even bores, but it continues that calm and doesn’t change. Perfect for a week, even for two, maybe for a month, I’m open for new things. That is what I thought. But the plans of my friends were, well, we can say, a bit different. Or actually very different. A huge difference, a giant abyss, almost like the ones I was going to when they took me to the Unamuno viewpoint, or almost like the ocean I was sailing through thinking I was going to fall inside. But how did those things happen without me noticing? Waves, speed driving on a narrow roads…hmm it was not the plan, wasn’t it? (I remind again, the name of my blog is so true and suites perfectly to my life)  That happens to me trusting friends, below I tell you everything, the whole story.

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Istanbul part 4: all the colors of Balat

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In my last article on Istanbul I will talk about Balat, which is supposed to be the most colorful neighborhood in the entire city. But, I think Balat goes much further than that. Yes, there are millions of tourists every year who go to Balat to take their pictures out there and then upload them to social networks. It seemed so exaggerated what some were doing that in addition to taking a couple of normal photos with my friends, I also made others making “model” faces. I like to mock people (myself too) and I have no remedy, as usual. Here I leave you the exaggerated photos and those colorful things that make the neighborhood so attractive to a tourist.
You can see that there are very touristy parts with many cafes and nice little restaurants with terraces full of tourists. Tourist, tourist and a bit more of tourist 😉 Those sites are more expensive than usual, precisely because they are located near or within those colorful streets where all the influencers spend half of the day waiting for their turn to take photos. And we are in the middle, a bit laughing at them, a bit taking photos.
Well, I am, of course, exaggerating,  you don’t wait half of the day. It’s about 20 minutes maximum maybe, but if you want a photo in which no one else comes out, then you will have to come at dawn, or simply settle for more people in your photo, and that’s it, it’s not the end of the world, go to drink Turkish coffee and everything will be nicer. That coffee I definitely don’t share with anyone. 
Balat is also known to tourists as the “multicultural” neighborhood of Istanbul. Indeed, it’s a part of the city where in a few kilometers you can find an Armenian church, a Bulgarian Orthodox temple, a synagogue, a Greek Orthodox cathedral,… I suppose you know that Turkey is a country with a large Muslim majority, what makes Balat even more interesting. Perhaps the most surprising thing is that, traditionally, since the time when Istanbul was Constantinople, the seat of the ecumenical patriarch is located in that city. That means that basically, the center of all the orthodox religion (which is within what we call Christianity, for those who have doubts about it) is precisely in Istanbul. In other words, Balat is a gem for lovers of culture and history. Below I leave the photos of the religious temples:
Bulgarian Church of St. Stephen:    
Armenian church :
Synagogue – since you have to ask for a special document that certifies that you can enter, then we stayed outside and I could only take the photo of the door with writings in Hebrew.  
Of course, all this doesn’t reflect so much the actual situation of Balat. I would say, and if one day you visit Balat and spend at least one day there, walking and strolling there and not so much posing for the photos, you will realize that it’s a kind of a neighborhood that we could call “traditional”, and clearly there is nothing wrong with that, but it’s not what one expected after reading so many multi-culti things about Balat, right? Of course there are Christians who live in Balat, that is more than evident, when I was going to choose a place to have a coffee while waiting for my friends, I was surprised with several cafes that were decorated with the Christmas tree and also had several religious icons, photos of the saints, Jesus and the Virgin. I leave the photo.   
But, they are not a majority in that part of the city. If you go up a little bit (it’s a part in several hills I think, because you have to go up quite a lot and constantly) you will see that there are many Turkish flags on the street, in the cars too, there are children playing football on the streets, there are many women with tchador (one traditional muslim garment, black, covering the whole body but exposing the entire face, but not the hair), there are cafes exclusively for men, there are many mosques, there are many shops for traditional garments for both women and men. And above all, there are no tourists. Being the synonym of a multicultural neighborhood, I would say that this is a great confusion caused by those superficial tourists (I know you may get offended, but it’s the truth) that they have neither the desire nor the time to investigate further, to go further. Why, if you can just go to the tourist part of Balat, say oh how nice that there is so much diversity, so many colors, have a breakfast, lunch, or coffee that is quite expensive and westernized and tgen you leave, because there are so many other tourist places waiting to be photographed, documented and sent to our friends or shared on the social media so that everyone will be envious of us. The Balat that I knew is different: yes, it’s tolerant so that if you are walking in western clothes through the traditional part, nobody is going to say anything, nobody is going to look ugly at you and make you feel bad, which I thank a thousand times because in the European capitals things are very but very different. But also, I would say that it’s the most traditional neighborhood I visited in all of Istanbul. If you don’t believe me, go there, but you will have to look a little more than those facades of so many colors. And I swear to you that I now consider Balat prettier than before, because tourists don’t get to take away the soul, it’s still a neighborhood where normal people live, with not so high incomes, but they live with their own perspective of their city and its neighborhood, quite different from that of tourists. Hopefully and they never lose that essence, whether we like it or not.
Small Turkish vocabulary :

Hello – Merhaba

How are you ? – Nasılsın ?

Thanks – Teşekkürler

Check, please.  – Hesap lütfen

Aiport – havalimanı

Water  – su

Where is…? – …nerede?

So cute! – çok tatlı!

What’s the time? – Saat kaç?

Yes – evet

No – Hayır

So beautiful! – çok güzel!

Istanbul part 3: Kadiköy and Üsküdar: Asia’s hidden jewels

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In the second article dedicated to my trip to Istanbul I already wrote about all the tourist attractions. So what is the third article for? First, not even a hundred articles would be enough to describe how beautiful Istanbul is and to list all the things to see. Second, no, in the previous article I didn’t mention everything, I mentioned almost everything. The best is left for the final, right? What I want to talk about now is a part that is practically the opposite of everything that a tourist who was in Istanbul will tell you. Forget Hagia Sofia, it’s time to take that boat and go to Asia. Few tourists come there, at least at the time when I was there for the first time, and it’s a time when many tourists come. It’s the Asian part. I don’t know why before I came to Istanbul I thought that the European side looked more the way the Asian side actually looks. Another one of my mistakes based on prejudice. Because in my small Croatian head I thought that Asia means East, and we already know what the East is like. Yes, I am the umpteenth proof that someone with a university education (I even have a Master) can be more racist than someone who didn’t finish the elementary school.

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