Archive for Europe

Fontainebleau CastleApart from the ever romantically famous Eiffel Tower, France is known for its wildlife and forest attractions. Fontainebleau Castle and Forest has been noted to have 13 million visitors yearly, surpassing the Eiffel Tower, with only 6 million visitors. Fontainebleau Forest is protected by France’s Office National des Forets which has 25,000 hectares of forest surrounding the vicinity of Fontainebleau and its neighbouring villages. The place is a former royal hunting park that is often visited by walkers and horse riders. Several sport activities are said to be perfect in this neighbourhood. Card games, Tennis, and rock climbing are the usual sports of the people residing in this area.

Card Games in the Castle 

Blackjack and poker are popularly played card games throughout Fontainebleau, France. In fact, poker uses a 52-card deck of French cards, which is said to have originated in France. The card game’s popularity in France is on the rise as it made numerous French poker players known in land based and online based casinos worldwide. One famous French poker player, Vanessa Rousso, extended her overwhelming excellent poker skills and strategic gameplays at online poker websites like partypoker français. Aside from playing poker as a sport, poker can be a relaxing alternative to those who have been working excessively. Online poker gaming websites developed their downloadable mobile applications, providing online poker enthusiasts an easy way to play through their mobile phones anywhere – even in the courtyards of Fontainebleau. Furthermore, visitors can share their great strolling experiences in Fontainebleau with their friends at online gaming portals. The Royal Courtyards listed below are also some of the most visited historical places in Fontainebleau which visitors can boast about online.

Fontainebleau Castle

Royal Courtyards 
The Real Tennis Room is known to be the oldest of the three remaining historical rooms in France. The place is normally a tennis place, and known for its popular old saying “the game of kings, the king of games.” The Real Tennis room is now a place of regular tournaments and promotes all tennis enthusiasts to play the sport all year long.

The Palace buildings are composed of five main courtyards, popular to due to its complicated infrastructures. Each area has several names according to different periods. The Court of the White Horse is prominent by its high-roofed pavilions that date back to the 16th century. Its famous double horse-shoe staircase was built in 1963 by Jean Androuet Du Cerceau.

The Ballroom is built under Francois I and then had its building completion under Henri II by Philibert Delorme. Its luxuriously gold and silver ceiling decoration never fails to be adored by its recent and regular visitors.

(PHOTO: Guilhem Vellut)

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Dec
27

My Favourite Photos of 2012

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The problem with writing about all the wonderful places I’ve visited in 2012 is that I simply couldn’t do them justice in a single blog post. Instead, I’ve chosen my favourite photos I’ve taken this year.

Donbass Arena

Donbass Arena, Donetsk

Donbass Arena, Donetsk

I travelled to the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine for the Euro 2012 match between England and France. It was a beautiful summers day and I had time to look around the city and soak up the sun. The game was played in the Donbass Arena, a magnificent, modern football stadium. As it as the summer, there was still a hint of sunlight after the game and I was able to capture this photo.
http://bbmexplorer.com/donetsk-euro-2012-host-city/

Blue Dragon Nudibranch

Blue Dragon Nudibranch

Blue Dragon Nudibranch

In April, we took a family holiday to Sharm el Sheikh in Egypt, a place where I have dived many times before. I’m not sure what was different about this trip but I seem very tuned in to find different nudibranchs and slugs whilst I was diving. I found this Blue Dragon Nudibranch on the wreck of the Yolanda at the very tip of the Sinai.
http://holidayblog.easyjet.com/dives-in-egypt-rob-atherton/

Oslo Harbour

Oslo Harbour

Oslo Harbour

Oslo Harbour is one of the main tourist areas of the city and is wonderful place to be during the long summer days. It is also the starting point for a number of short cruises around the many beautiful fjords and inlets.

Scallop, Aldeburgh

Scallop, Aldeburgh, Suffolk

Scallop, Aldeburgh, Suffolk

There are some lovely towns and villages along the Suffolk coast. Aldeburgh is one of these places and although it is probably best known for its wonderful fish and chips the Scallop just to the north of the town has been the cause of discussion. This sculpture is dedicated to the composer,  Benjamin Britten who used to walk along this stretch of beach. Some people think it should be taken down as it is inappropriate for a man made object along such a beautiful setting.

Liverpool

Liverpool Skyline

Liverpool Skyline

I’ve been spending a bit of time in Liverpool recently and although the city is the butt of a number of jokes, parts of the city are absolutely wonderful. One evening I took the opportunity to head over to the Wirral on the other side of the River Mersey and took this picture of the Liverpool skyline at night. It shows the iconic towers of the Royal Liver Building, the Cunard Building, the Port of Liverpool Building, the Echo Area and in the distance, the Anglican Cathedral.

Avebury Stone Circle

Avebury Stone Circle

Avebury Stone Circle

The stone circles in the Wiltshire village of Avebury contains the largest stone circle in Europe and is one of the best known prehistoric sites in Britain. It dates back to 2,600BC during the Neolithic period and today is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Titan Triggerfish

Titan Triggerfish

Titan Triggerfish

I wasn’t sure whether to include a second underwater picture but I really like this picture of a Titan Triggerfish. These fish can grow up to 70cm long and are sometimes incredibly agressive. I’ve been attacked by them a few times although luckily, I’ve never been bitten. The thing I like about this picture is I was able to get so close to it head on.

Dec
02

Menorca: Island of hidden delights

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The Balearic Islands are known as a hedonist’s wonderland – full of clubs and rowdy young things. However, the quieter cousin of Ibiza and Majorca is Menorca. This smaller island is full of foodie delights, tranquil backwaters and 99 beaches, each with its own unique vibe and sea conditions. Whether by bike, kayak or on foot, Menorca has a treasure trove of hamlets to discover.

Magnificent menus 

Towards the north of the island is Macaret, a decent spot for a lazy lunch or tapas meal. Try the dangerously refreshing pomada, a local speciality gin that’s served with plenty of ice and lemon. Also, take a mental note of Es Mercadal. In this area, there’s a large variety of eateries, ranging from the cheap and cheerful to upmarket cuisine. An island with 99 beaches has abundant seafood morsels and a decent variety of seafood restaurants. Try Ses Truqueries, a farm combined with restaurant near the rocky shores of Cuitadella. Another gem is Can Bernat d’es Grau, a place that does local fish seared on a griddle, near Maó on the coast. In Maó, a converted convent holds a decadent market which sells local cheeses, sausages, capers and gin – all of the necessities for a fun night.

Must-see Menorca 

Menorca has 1,600 megalithic sites from aeons ago scattered around the island. Talatí de Dalt has a magnificent T-shaped structure called a Taula. The Naveta dels Tudons has an enigmatic monolith that’s shaped like an upturned boat. In ancient times, the inhabitants of Menorca mined for limestone, and recently these quarries have been restored to their glory days. The Pedreres de s’Hostal at Líthica is one such treasure of antiquity. At the early and later hours of the day, the shadows cast into these quiet, empty spaces are awe-inspiring.

An eco-view to write home about 

Menorca has been a UNESCO biosphere since 1993. Suffice to say that they take eco-living and conservation very seriously indeed. Wild camping is not allowed, but sleeping out in sleeping bags and in a small tent is tolerated, so long as you’re careful where you park your tired feet. Places like sand dunes are protected because of the local flora and fauna. Just make sure that you leave the place as you found it. Unlike Ibiza, instead of techno beats reverberating around Menorca, there is only bird song and waves. The island is largely flat, making it perfect for walking or cycling trips. The good news for the out-of-shape traveller is that these won’t prove to be too challenging.

Get lost in a kayak 

Athletic and adventurous types should try their hand at kayaking across the 216km of coastline in Menorca. Only around half of the beaches there have road access, which means that exploring by kayak could be the ticket to a little-known paradise. The Menorcan tourist board estimates that the circumnavigation of Menorca by kayak will take 10 hours in the kayak, for 10 days. If this idea seems exhausting, then there are plenty of day trips and pleasure paddles to be found. A good day’s paddle is Illa d’en Colom. An uninhabited island about 200m from the mainland, it’s a part of the Parc de s’Albufera des Grau. It’s likely that there won’t be a single solitary soul in view, only turquoise water, golden sand and a flurry of birds above and fishes below. Be sure to check accommodation arrangements before travelling, as many places are closed for the winter from November to March. However, going there during the colder period will mean that Menorca is surprisingly cheap and practically deserted – always a nice bonus. Check out cheap holidays to Spain in early spring time too. This is when the almond blossom comes out and the air is restless with new life.

The Balaerics in general are very easy to get to, with cheap holidays to Spain available through Thomson and several other travel operators.

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Aug
19

Heathrow Pods at Terminal 5

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If you have ever flown from London Heathrow Terminal 5, you may have seen this strange little pods approaching the terminal building on a concrete ramp near the end of the runway. A number of them can be seen at any one time and they are quite small so for a time I wondered what they were.

A few months ago, I discovered they were used to move passengers from the T5 Business Car Park to the terminal. It seemed like a great alternative to the more traditional bus. Ahead of a recent trip to Zurich, I was flying from T5 at Heathrow and needed to pre-book some parking. The BAA website usually has some pretty good rates when you book in advance so it is part of my trip routine if I’m driving to the airport.

When I logged on to their website, I hadn’t really considered the Business Car Park. Generally, they are a lot more expensive and with the Swiss Franc being so strong, I wasn’t looking to spend any more money than I had to on this trip. I needed to park for 2 days so I typed in the details and the search results came back. I was pleasantly surprised to see the Business Car Park was only £4 more than Long Stay (£36 as opposed to £32). The opportunity to have a go on the Heathrow Pods was too good to miss so I booked them straight away.

On arrival, the Business Car Park is pretty similar to any other airport car park although it is a bit small in terms of number of bays. There are 2 pod stations; A and B. You simply walk to the nearest one and wait for a pod to arrive. When it does, there are a couple of very simple options on the touch screen, you jump in and away you go.

Inside, the pod will seat 4 people comfortable along with their luggage. The journey takes 5 minutes and drops you right in the heart of the terminal. On your return, you follow the signs to point you were dropped off, pick one of the waiting pods and chose your destination; Station A or Station B.

Heathrow quite often gets a bad rap, usually unfairly but I have to say that the Business Car Park pods are as efficient as anything I’ve experienced anywhere in the world. I’m not sure how much extra I would be prepared to pay for them in future but I will definitely consider them in the future. Unfortunately, they only operate at Terminal 5 which is where most (not all) of the British Airways flights operate from. Travelling in the modern age can be a real pain and it is little things like this that make our journeys a little easier.

Heathrow Terminal 5 Business Car Parking can be booked online at the BAA website*

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*Affiliate link

Categories : Britain, Europe, London
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Jan
29

Travelling As An England Football Fan

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Later this year, Poland and Ukrane will host the 2012 European Football Championships. It is argueably the second biggest football tournament after the World Cup. My first England game was back in 1987 at the old Wembley Stadium. I stood behind the goal in a crowd of 100,000 as England drew 1-1 with Brazil. Gary Lineker gave England the lead before Mirandinha equalised. That goal prompted Newcastle United to sign him and he became the first Brazilian to play in England.

 

My first England away game in Durban, South Africa

 

Over the following years, I went to various games but never to away matches. That changed after the World Cup in 2002 when I booked a week in KwaZulu Natal as England travelled to South Africa to play a friendly international in Durban. At the time, I didn’t really know anyway else travelling to watch the game so I just went by myself. I booked a few days diving up in Sodwana Bay in the north of the province before heading back to Durban for a couple of nights to watch the match. The lads I met were fantastic and I had a great time. I managed to get a lift to and from the old ABSA stadium on a coach and inside the stadium, a group of us were giving some beer by some South African fans. It was a great trip and I even saw Emile Heskey AND Gareth Southgate score.

From then, I decided I was going to go whereever possible and the following year, I went to my first tournament in Portugal. By now, I was meeting friends I’d made either to travel with or catching up once we arrived.

 

An England game during Euro 2004 in Lisbon

 

I travelled with a friend and we stayed in the beautiful city of Porto, travelling to Coimbra and Lisbon (three times) for the 4 England games. It was a superb time to be there with loads of happy people, sunshine, football and plenty of great memories. Since then, I’ve met some great people, many of whom are now very good friends. I’ve travelled to a long list of countries and places, many of which I would never have considered going to.

Naturally with so many trips, there are plenty of stories too. One of the few trips I missed was the away match in Baku, Azerbaijan. I really wanted to go but circumstances conspired against me. Everyone I speak to who went had a great time. Naturally, when husbands and boyfriends go away for a few days, they usually spend their last bit of local currency at the departure airport on some perfume for the wife or girlfriend. However, that was a bit too obvious for one England fan. Instead of a bottle of scent, he decided to take back an Azeri steam iron complete without English instructions.

My favourite away trip was the 2 match tour to the United States in 2005 which saw England play USA at Soldier Field in Chicago followed a few days later against Columbia at the Giants stadium in New York. It was my first visit to Chicago and I loved it.

 

England visit Soldier Field in Chicago

 

The game was played on the Saturday so we took the opportunity for a bit of sightseeing on the Sunday ahead of our early morning flight to Newark. A friend and I took a Gangster tour to see the old haunts of Capone and Dillinger. The tour was excellent and dropped us off outside a bar at about 3pm. Conscious of our early start, we just went in for a quick drink. We got back to the hotel around 1am ready for our 5am pickup. Somehow, we got up and made it down to the car who whisked us off to the airport. After a while, the driver announced we were getting close to O’Hare. Unfortunately, we were flying from Midway which resulted in a sharp U-turn and some liberal interpretations of the speed limits. We just made our flight and I’d never been more grateful to get into a hotel room early when we finally got to Jersey City.

The next day was an early start at the local pub for a full English breakfast and an early-ish departure to the Giants Stadium for my first tailgating experience. The pub very kindly provided us with a keg of beer which was easily consumed before the game.

A few years ago, England supporters had a terrible (and well deserved) reputation but today, it is very different. Despite travelling in huge numbers, there are hardly any arrests. This is mainly due to the tight controls on getting tickets for away matches. Unless you are a member of the official supporters club, you don’t have a chance. Even then, matches do get over-subscribed but a loyalty scheme ensures the regulars get tickets while also allowing new comers access to some tickets.

Depending on the destination, the biggest challenge is booking travel and accommodation. There is one fan I know who refuses to fly. Luckily, he is retired and goes to many of the games by train. The furthest away trip he took was to Almaty for the World Cup 2010 qualifying in Kazakhstan along the old Silk route. It took something like 5 days to get there and another 5 to get back. I haven’t travelled to an away game entirely by train yet but it was be a wonderfully relaxing option compared to tackling airports.

A couple of years ago, I drove to Paris for a game. I left a couple of days ahead of the match to take in the Battlefields around Ypres and the Somme. They were well worth visiting and I’m sure I’ll go back again someday. My SatNav was invalueable in finding all the little villages and memorials. In 2006 ahead of England’s first game in the World Cup, I was told the story of one fan who really should have bought a SatNav or at least learned how to read a map. This lad from Hull had bought a cheap camper van…and I do mean cheap. The headlights didn’t even work but this was in the middle of summer so it shouldn’t have been a problem. Our intrepid fan made his way to Frankfurt in his little van, parked up and found a bar. He casually said to the barman

“Its pretty quiet in town considering England are playing here tomorrow”

The barman was puzzled as this little town on the German / Polish border wasn’t a World Cup venue. It soon became clear, our friend from Hull had gone to the wrong Frankfurt. Now he had to get right across Germany in his old campervan, without any headlights. Thankfully, he made it and he had learned his lesson. The most important thing was that England also beat Paraguay 1-0.

 

Most England fans went to the correct Frankfurt in 2006

 

 

However, the majority of fans do fly and many prefer to travel independently rather than use the more expensive day trips. Airlines don’t tend to add extra capacity so the seats that are available are generally sold quickly. The prices appear to go up quickly and some accuse the airlines of hiking prices. I don’t believe this is the case, its simply a matter of the cheaper seats being sold a lot more quickly than normal.

Groups of fans who travel together will plan their travel ahead of the seats being released. Sometimes, delaying by even a few minutes can result in fares in some cases doubling or more. Its not all expensive though. I know some fans who travelled to Geneva to watch England play Argentina in a friendly a few years ago who paid just £32. They caught a flight on the morning of the game with the return late in the evening. There was no need for a hotel on this trip.

 

Kiev - Host city for Euro 2012

 

This summer, England and Ireland will take part in the Euro 2012 Finals. Ireland will play their matches in Poland while England fans will have to travel further to Ukraine with games in Donetsk and Kiev. Travelling to Donetsk is especially tricky due to the distance from Kiev and relative lack of accommodation in the city. This summer, I’ll travel to the games for the first time on day trips. Its not a tournament I’m particularly excited about and in 2013, England will return to Ukraine to play a 2014 World Cup qualifier. I’ve already been to Kiev once with England so in 2013, I’ll aim to see the sights I missed last time round.

Oct
15

Montenegro’s Stunning Coastline

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 As a teenager, I can remember holiday brochures advertising Yugoslavia as a beach destination. I always wondered what it was like. As a nation, Yugoslavia is long gone and today is divided into a number of different countries. One of the newest and smallest is also one of the most picturesque – Montenegro.

This tiny country is home to just over 600,000 people and the coastline of less than 180 miles. From north to south, there are 4 main towns; Kotor, Budva, Bar and Ulcinj connected by the winding coast road. Along the way, there are plenty of spectacular views as the route twists and turns high above the beautiful ocean. In addition to the 4 towns, there are a number of smaller settlements each with a charm of there own.

The most picturesque is Sveti Stefan with its iconic island. In the past, this historic little place has been visited by a host of celebrities including Marilyn Monroe, Sophia Loren and Claudia Schiffer. This was my base for my visit although I didn’t see any celebrities. I stayed at the 4* Hotel Romanov in a room with a sea view. Breakfast was individually prepared rather than being a free for all buffet style with really added to the experience. At less then €70 a night, it was exceptional value.

 

The beach in the heart of Ulcinj

 

Working up from the south, the first main town is Ulcinj. The area is renowned for its long sandy beaches making it a popular tourist destination in the summer. The ‘Large Beach’ is 12km long and is the longest in Montenegro. At night, there are a number of cafes, bars and discos and for those looking for a bit of culture, the old town and medieval castle are very well preserved.

Heading north, the next town is Bar which is a little large that nearby Ulcinj. It is a place with a long history and the Old Olive of Mirovica, the world’s oldest Olive Tree grows here. With beaches, nightlife and historic buildings such as King Nicola’s Palace, Bar is another popular tourist destination. To the east of Bar is the Old Town which although has seen better days, it offers a fascinating insight into the history of the area. To the north of the town is on the only aqueduct in Montenegro. It has been restored to it’s former glory after being destroyed in an earthquake in 1979.

 

Part of the Old Town, Bar

 

The next 35km of the coastline are mainly small settlements and tourist destinations for those looking for a quieter time on the coast. It is on this section of the road where those heading for the capital, Podgorica will turn off and head inland through the new Tunel Sozina and past Lake Skador. However, my journey was along the coast and one of the many small towns in Petrovac. Set in a little bay, it is another place popular with tourists in the summer who flock to the beaches and cafes along the promenade during the day.

After leaving Petrovac and heading past my base at Sveti Stefan, we came to the ancient town of Budva. It can trace its roots back around 2,500 years and may well be the oldest settlement on the Adriatic coast. It is the tourism capital of Montenegro with over 300,000 visitors per year outnumbering the local population of 17,000. There is plenty for visitors to do here with beaches, bars, cafes, shops and the wonderful old town which was also badly damaged in the earthquake in 1979. It was a number of years before it was fully restored.

 

A cruise shipped docked at Kotor

 

Our last stop along the coast is the wonderful Bay of Kotor. There are a number of little towns around this impressive natural bay and it is the town of Kotor. It is a destination for cruise ships that dock in the spectacular settings of the surrounding mountains and the walls of the old town. Inside the walls of the old town are a maze of narrow streets with cafes where you can sit outside and watch the world go by.

I drove this in a day but to really do these wonderful towns justice, two or three days would allow you to explore without rushing around. Although the towns are relatively close together, the roads aren’t great so driving speeds are fairly low.

The airport in Podgorica is on the road to the coast and it will take around an hour to drive down to Sveti Stefan either through the tunnel or across the mountains.

 

Travel Details:

Flights from London Heathrow to Podgorica with Austrian Airlines via Vienna (http://tinyurl.com/austrianairlines-uk).

Hotel Romanov (4*) in Sveti Stefan booked with Expedia (http://holidaydestinations.at/bbmexplorer)

Car Hire booked with Delta Car in Montenegro (http://www.rentacar-delta.com)

Sep
18

A Day Exploring the Bulgarian Capital

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In the Soviet era, Bulgaria was always one of the more productive countries within the Communist Bloc. Today, it is a member of the EU and the Black Sea holiday resorts are popular with foreign tourists offering excellent value. In the winter, Bulgaria is also a popular ski destination but we turn our attentions to the other side of the country and the nations capital city, Sofia.

Sofia is surprisingly missed as a tourism destination compared to the beach and ski resorts. Today, it is home to around 1.4 million people and can trace it’s origins back more than 2,000 years. The city has a diverse history and this is evident with the variety of buildings you will see in the centre. Cobbled streets, 5* hotels, Orthordox churches, Communist monuments and the Banya Bashi Mosque, a remnant from the time when Bulgaria was part of the Ottoman Empire.

Although a relatively large number of people call Sofia their home, many of the places of interest are in the heart of the city and you can easily walk between them. Once you arrive at Sofia airport, life is pretty easy. The taxis are on a meter and it cost about £6 to get to the Sheraton Hotel. There are a few excellent Western chain hotels in the centre of town so shop around to get a deal. The room at the Sheraton was around €100 a night.

Sitting Outdoors, Sofia

 

I suspect that Sofia is at its best in the summer months. The temperature will regularly hit 30 Celcius (88 Farenheit) so there are plenty of oppotunities to sit outside at one of the many cafes or in the parks and watch the world go by. Winter is a different matter when it regularly freezes and the snow comes along. Getting around Sofia when the weather isn’t so good won’t be a problem. Taxis are cheap and the modern metro is being expanded with the construction of a second line.

Street Sign, Sofia

 

Although Bulgarian is written in Cyrillic, all the street signs are also written in Latin characters too so there are no problems understanding which street you are on. Tourist maps are available at the hotels making Sofia a great place to explore on foot. There are some wonderful buildings to admire such as the Alexander Nevski Cathedral and the smaller St Nikolai Orthordox Church. The St George Rotunda which is behind the Sheraton hotel, is a UNESCO heritage site dating back to the 10th century. Not far from the Nevski Cathedral is a small open air market where I managed to find a couple of old Soviet Union medals. I always find it interesting to browse these type of stalls as you never know what you will find.

Alexander Nevski Cathedral

 

The number of street cafes and parks mean that you can wander around at your own pace. The value for money in Sofia is excellent. Eating is cheap and there are plenty of places to choose from. Another great thing I found about the various cafes, bars and places to eat was that many of them included free WiFi so I could use all my smart phones features without worrying about getting a ridiculous bill on my return due data roaming charges.

Although I found Sofia interesting, there wasn’t really much to it. The value for money is superb but it is a 3 hour flight from the UK. Its worth going once, perhaps in the Autumn to get a bit of sunshine but its not a city I would go back to time and again.

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On the banks of the River Volga in Southern Russia is the city of Volgograd. During World War II, the area was the scene of some terrible fighting between the Soviet Red Army and the German Army Group South. Much of the city was destroyed and has since been rebuilt. Throughout, visitors will find many interesting places that tell the story of the city that was originally called Tsaritsyn by the Tatars, renamed Stalingrad by the Communists and is today known as Volgograd.

Mamayev Hill was the original site of the Tatar settlement Tsaritsyn. It is the highest point in the city with commanding views of the area. Today, there is a colossal statue of Mother Russia which can be seen from miles away. She stands on top of a mound which is a mass grave of 34,000 soldiers who died hear. There are 35 Heroes of the Soviet Union buried here including the legendary sniper Vasiliy Zaitsev along with the commander of the 64th Army and twice Hero of the Soviet Union, Marshall Chuikov.

Like many cities around the world, the river is at the heart of it and Volgograd is no different. The River Volga winds its way from central Russia down to the Caspian Sea. At Volgograd it is a wide river carrying huge cargo ships. Along both banks are beautiful sandy beaches and during the summer, the water temperature can reach 25 Celcius which is on par with places like the Red Sea in Egypt in April. Every hour, short cruises depart sailing up and down the river and it allows a wonderful perspective of the city.

The Panoramic Museum is a fantastic place for anyone with even the slightest interest in the military history of Volgograd. It is located next to the Old Mill which is one of the few buildings that survived the battle. The damage to the Old Mill gives an idea what the devastation across the city. Inside the museum, there is a wealth of wonderful exhibits including the rifle used by Vasiliy Zaitsev. Plenty of time should be allowed to see everything the Panoramic Museum has to offer.

During the final days of the Battle of Stalingrad, the German Headquarters was in the basement of the Department Store. The store survives and a museum can be found hidden away in the basement. Among the items on display are portraits of the 5 Red Army soldiers who discovered the Germans and were asked to find a senior ranking office to accept their surrender. One of the men, Private Altukov of the 38th Motorised Brigade, is still alive and living in Volgograd.

Lyudnikov’s Island takes its name from the fact it was an area of the city under Soviet control that was isolated from the main force. The command post still survives although very badly damaged. Close by are a number of mass graves of fallen soldiers 138th Division who died here during the Battle of Stalingrad.

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Aug
11

Three Days In The Hero City of Volgograd

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Mamayev Kurgan

Mamayev Kurgan

I decided to take a 3 day trip to the city of Volgograd in Southern Russia with the main aim of exploring the battlefields of the Second World War. From September 1942 to February 1943, the fighting was harsh and around 2 million men and women died. Much of the city was also destroyed with little more than 5% of the original buildings surviving. Today, more than 1 million people call Volgograd home.

If you arrive at the airport which was used as a German airstrip during the battle, the terminal building proudly states “Hero City Volgograd”. My guide met me at the airport and drove me to my hotel. The journey took around 30 minutes. I stayed at the centrally located Best Eastern Hotel Volgograd which is typical of the Soviet era hotels that have been modernised yet still retain some features of the bygone era. The entrance and stairways were beautifully ornate given the impression of a far better hotel than the 3* grade it has. However, the room was a bit more basic. The bathroom was reasonably modern and there was air conditioning which was very welcoming but the bed couldn’t be described as comfortable and the TV only had a few Russian stations. There was a fridge but no safe for valuables. Breakfast was included but the choice was repetitive. One major plus was free wi-fi throughout the hotel. In a country when mobile phone roaming charges are so high, it was a welcome lifeline.

It quickly became apparent I would need to use my limited Russian a lot more in Volgograd. Almost all the signs are only in Cyrillic and few people speak English. That said, I did find menus in both Russian and English at one cafe. I found the use of an English speaking guide during my 3 days in Volgograd absolutely priceless. There was little in the way of tourist information available in any language, never mind English so if you plan an independent trip, make sure you have your information before you arrive.

 

All Saints Church and Tank Turret at Mamayev Kurgan

All Saints Church and Tank Turret at Mamayev Kurgan

There are memorials to be found right across the city. The observant visitor will notice monuments with T-34 tank turrets. There are 80 of these in total and they mark the furtherest point of the German advance before the Soviet counter attack began on 19th November 1942. It gives you an idea just how close the city came to falling. Of the various places of interest, two of the more popular are Mamayev Hill and the Panoramic Museum.

I also visited the small museum in the basement of the department store. Its hidden away and takes some finding. It was here that the German commander Friedrich Paulus was found by 5 Red Army soldiers, one of whom still lives in Volgograd today. Other places I visited in the city included Lyudnikov’s Island, the tractor factory where the last T-34 was produced and the Grain Elevator where so many men died.

 

Monument to Meeting of Soviet Forces, Kalach Region

Monument to Meeting of Soviet Forces, Kalach Region

 

During my 3 days here, I ventured more than 50 miles from the city to the point where the German Army was finally encircled trapping 330,000 men. It is at a point on the Don – Volga canal which Stalin built to link these two mighty rivers. The canal is huge, capable of transporting large cargo ships. I also visited some old German trenches, the only German cemetery at Rossoshka, Soldier Field and the church at Gorodische which the Germans used as a hospital.

I found some comparisons with the Western Front battlefields of France in that where ever you looked, there were memorials and graves to the fallen. The Volgograd region has it’s own ‘iron harvest’ of rifles, cartridge cases, helmets and the like from the fight and in excess of 1,000 soldiers remains are found each year. Unlike the Western Front, many of the memorials are not well signposted so for the independent traveller, would be difficult to find. However, the significance of what took place here 70 years ago and the efforts of soldiers like Vasiliy Zaitsev and Private Altukov of the 38th Motorised Brigade who found Field Marshall Paulus should never be underestimated.

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There are many popular areas in the holiday destination of Turkey and the town of Marmaris is one. The friendly, relaxing atmosphere offers a stunning coastline while Oludeniz has some superb beaches. For those in search of a bit of culture, Fethiye is well worth visiting. The wide range of accommodation in Dalaman means it suits all types of holiday makers with everything from self-catering apartments to villas to all-inclusive hotels.

As well as considering the resort and accommodation for your Dalaman holiday, you’ll also need to consider about your transfer from the airport. It may seem like a small part of your trip but its quite an important part. Holiday Taxis have a list of DOs and DON’Ts to help you.

DO think ahead!

You have a couple of options when it comes to transfers from Dalaman airport; wait until you arrive to get find a way to your hotel or prebook your transfer.

You need to work out how far your accommodation is from the airport and approximately how much you should expect to pay. This helps avoid any nasty surprises when you arrive. Holidays are meant to be enjoyed !!

DO look at a map

Although avoiding having to navigate in a foreign country is a popular reason for choosing Dalaman airport taxis, it could come in handy to know roughly where you are staying in relation to Dalaman Airport. By having a quick look at a map online before you travel, you will be able to advise your taxi driver if they are unsure of your accommodation’s location, and it may also help you to figure out the rough price of your transfer before you arrive at Dalaman Airport.

DO pick up a phrase book!

You definitely don’t need to be fluent in Turkish in order to have an enjoyable holiday in Dalaman, as English will be spoken in most hotels and in many shops, restaurants and bars. Nevertheless, learning a few essential Turkish words and phrases could help to make your holiday – including your transfers to and from your accommodation – go without a hitch. Try to make time to break out the phrase book before you travel – you never know when your ‘pleases’ and ‘thank yous’ might come in useful!

DON’T divide up your group.

Of course, if you’re travelling to Dalaman as part of a large group, you’ll want to keep everyone together when travelling to your accommodation. However, leaving the arrangements for Dalaman airport taxis until the last minute may mean that your group will have to split up in order to travel to your accommodation in small private taxis.

To stop this from happening, why not choose pre-arranged Dalaman airport taxis from a transfer provider such as Holiday Taxis? You will be able to choose from a wide range of transfer types such as minibuses and coaches, ensuring that your entire group can start their holiday together, at the same time.

Well, there you have it! We hope that you’ve learned a bit about Dalaman airport taxis and hopefully our top tips can help you to get your holidays to Dalaman off to the best possible start!

About Holiday Taxis

Holiday Taxis is one of the UK’s leading holiday transfer companies, and can arrange any type of airport transfer for any party size in over 7,000 resorts and cities worldwide including a variety of Dalaman airport taxis. Customers can choose from low cost shuttle transfers, group coach or minibus transfers or private taxi transfers.

Check out the various types of holiday transfers available with Holiday Taxis and get a quick quote today.

 

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