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Isfahan. Iran

24 h in Isfahan

Isfahan has some of the most picturesque sights of the country that we just couldn’t skip. On the other hand is one of those cities that you just can’t decide which of the horrible accommodation you should choose so we really didn’t want to stay too long there…

Settling down…

Isfahan still doesn’t really have much to offer when it comes to economic accommodation. Looking around for a place to stay we felt the standard of the places were not changing, just the price was going up. Places we saw were just old and depressive, not maintained and generally not attractive at all. We thought that if we have to sleep in a shithole than at least it should be cheap so we went for Amir Kabir. Thankfully we could choose between a room filled with cigarette smoke and another one just stinking like old socks. We went for the second option. Motivated by the lack of toilet paper, coldness of the weather and the staff we were ready to see the city as fast as possible.

Around Naqsh-e Jahan Square

Nagsh-e Jahan is the heart of the city and the first place to visit. The square itself is a UNESCO heritage and was built in the 16th-17th century. That’s where the bazaar is and 3 of the most important sights to see in Isfahan.

Morning birds in the Sheikh Lotf Allah Mosque

It’s a very small mosque without any minarets as it was built to be private for the royal court. That said, in the morning the light is just magical. It’s rather dark in there and then you can see separate rays of light coming through the perforated window. Yellow and purple colors of the dome create a perfect harmony with the blueish walls which made us think of a sunset…

Shah mosque  

It was built for the public so it’s big with a massive courtyard, praying hall and extensive ornaments and tile work. Compared to the Sheikh Lotf Allah Mosque it seemed to us like it was a bigger version but somehow lacking the love and finesse of the small one. Still really worth visiting as it’s one of the most impressive ones in Iran.

Ali Qapu Palace

Six floors of bare walls are quiet disappointing. But on the sixth floor there is a Music Hall. It’s a rather small room but the walls and ceilings are covered in niches as ornaments and acoustic tools. Unfortunately there was no one there to explain to us how that would work… Except for the Music Hall, Ali Qapu has a terrace overlooking the whole square. When we were there it was undergoing a renovation so it was rather hard to say if the terrace itself was impressive…

The bridge

Si-o-seh pol bridge is a symbol of Isfahan and definitely a must see. Especially that you never know if the river is actually there or if it’s completely dry… When we were there it was as dry as possible for already some time. People were picnicking in the river bed so they were pretty sure the water wasn’t coming back any soon. Walking under the bridge we actually noticed a long canal of passages underneath it where teenagers chill out. It’s worth coming in the evening, the bridge is really nicely illuminated.

P.S. We got contacted for feedback by people that are building a hostel at the time of writing and it seems it could be a nice turn for Isfahan. Reasonable prices, nice interior and finally toilet paper included 🙂 something worth checking out, it’s called Howzak House.

Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain

In Ireland of Spain a.k.a. Galicia

My love for Galicia started years ago when I came here to study as an exchange student. I’m not going to lie, it wouldn’t have been my first choice but with a 400 euros scholarship and a dream to go to Spain I could only go for Galicia or a carton box on the central station of Barcelona or Madrid. It turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life, it changed it completely. My love for food started here and so did my passion for travelling. I met friends for my whole life.

Now going back after years with Jandirk I still think Galicia is one of the most beautiful parts of Europe. Santiago de Compostela is one Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spainof the best known cities in the region due to the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrim path. But it has way more to offer than just a stunning cathedral and the grave of Saint James. It is a vibrant city with a great atmosphere and even greater food surrounded by stunning architecture. Although cities like Santiago, Vigo, Coruna or Lugo are worth visiting the true beauty of Galicia is in its villages and forgotten places. To reach all of those grandmas and their amazing food and wine we rented a car as public transport in Galicia could be better… could exist to begin with.

Our journey starts in Canon del Sil, a stunning canyon which is famous for its picturesque situated wine cellars. Going to local restaurants you get fed until you drop with delicious food Canon del Sil, Galicia, Spainand wine for almost no money at all. And the views are just breathtaking and we didn’t have to share those views with anyone. We didn’t even have to share our hotel as it was totally empty but absolutely gorgeous!! Classic, stone building with amazing views and great stylish
indoor. Most of the people don’t know that Galicia is really popular because of it’s delicious wine especially white, Albarino wine.

Another thing that Galicia is famous for (for the people who know that it exists) is the coast. It has some beautiful beaches with rocks, caves and cliffs, perfect to walk around (mostly it’s too cold to swim… at least for me). One of the most popular is Playa de las Catedrales. Tourism here has been waking up and it raised from maybe 20 people per day to a hundred but still it’s big enough for everyone. Going deeper in the coast it’s not a challenge to find a perfect spot only for yourself. And absolutely everywhere you get fed extraordinary food, true paradise for us.

Santa Elena, Colombia

Goodbye Colombia, hello Spain

The last days in Colombia were difficult, we were realizing that something was coming to an end. On one hand we wanted to eat as much papayas, granadillas and dragon fruit as possible on the other we were ready to go to Europe. 14 months in South America has been incredible but we were on for a change.Santa Elena, Colombia I think we were ready to leave the chaos, dirt and noise. At least for a while. We actually didn’t wait for our flight to do that, for the last couple of days we stayed in the middle of absolute nowhere an hour from Medellin. Santa Elena was a sleepy, green village in the forest. It was a different world. We stayed in a portable house which was just spectacular! Just us, nature and weird bugs.  Perfect scenery to contemplate our journey and the new chapter ahead of us.

Our flight to Europe was a long, long one. It stopped before it even started as they had to clean the plane. Nope, it absolutely couldn’t get cleaned before. It took 1.5 hr.

After many hours of movies, we reached Madrid and then Barcelona. Getting out of the airport we realized that 16 degrees in Europe is really cold. We were wondering if we were the only ones feeling that way because half of the tourists that we saw along the way were practically dressed for the beach. Possibly they thought that Spain is always hot or they were determined to get the best vacation pictures possible. Selfie sticks were everywhere and who didn’t have one could easily buy one on the streets. The local sellers are not screaming Gaudi anymore, now the only English words they know are “selfie stick”. And there are some pearls to photograph. Honestly for us everything was
beautiful, even food on the market. All well-presented and ready to buy. We were in heaven. We didn’t have to look
Barcelona, Spainat bananas 100 ways with rice. And there was no corn either. Just croissants, bread, ham, cheese, fruit and veg all of it was our dream coming true. After a nice dinner we could even flush the toilet paper. Only the prices were less of an excitement. The pearls of Gaudi’s architecture have reached just outrageous prices, unfinished Sagrada Familia costs 15 euros if you don’t want the view from the towers if you do 30… Batllo
house is now 22.5 euro and there are still plenty of people waiting in line. Even though it’s expensive Gaudi has created some marvelous architecture in Barcelona and it would be a sin not to see it so we did. The playful light in Sagrada Familia was just spectacular, Barcelona, Spain
incredible colors at every time of the day, I wonder how it will look in 2026 when it’s finished… and how much it will cost. Casa Bartllo was a masterpiece and walking around with kinda smartphones that were showing us how the house looked like when it was just built- insane idea. Obviously Bcn has so much more to offer except for Gaudi’s work and architecture in general. Shopping for example...:) unfortunately we didn’t manage to buy much. And now off to Galicia!!

Villa de Leyva, Colombia

Strolling through the streets of little towns north of Bogota

The identity of Colombia lies in its villages. While big cities are more western-like with their traffic, commercial centers and facilities, in the countryside everyone has time for a cafecito (small coffee) and not such a small talk. No wonder we always prefer small towns and villages.
Above Bogota there are few unmissable villages, three of which are on absolutely every "must see" list that I saw so far. Obviously that means crowds and higher prices in most cases. But not in Villa de Leyva. Places like that are a reason to travel really. Places that surprise us even though we saw every picture ever taken. First shock- no people, empty square, only a few locals, second- no one wanted to sell us a cow or not even a cigar. Villa de Leyva, ColombiaThird- the hostel we stayed in was really cheap (7 euro per bed) and absolutely stunning- two features that rarely go together. It had a huge outside common area overlooking the whole town with its mountains in the background. And the room itself was vintage in a European meaning of the word (in South America vintage is often synonym of broken, stolen from an old lady with dust untouched for quite some time). It was a pleasure to stay in Villa de Leyva and discover that there is so much more to it than just its main square. Charming broad streets, nice suburbs, mountains and superb ice cream is all we needed:)
After ice cream days we decided to burn some of the calories in San Gil- the capital of extreme sports. We started with our absolute favorite sport- walking in excruciating heat from the bus station to the hostel. JD was so tempted by the prices of extreme sports that he decided to try paragliding above the beautiful Canyon Chicamocha (170 000 pesos for a flight so around 50 euro). He didn't even have time to get scared before the flight because seconds after we arrived to the spot he was already tied to his instructor and the paraglide. The guy tied him faster than I could unpack the camera. True Ninja. San Gil offers not only paragliding but also rafting, caving, bungee jumping and sports that I have never heard about like rappelling which is descending from something (for example a rock) with a rope. We learn everyday while travelling:)Canyon Chicamocha, San Gil, Colombia
San Gil was actually also very close to another top destination village Barichara, supposedly the most beautiful town in Colombia. Definitely its cuisine has its charm as they eat "fat-ass ants" (hormigas culonas) which are deep fried huge ants. The town itself was also pretty although not as much as Villa de Leyva or any of the towns in the coffee regions. Maybe because it was Tuesday and Tuesday is the new Sunday in the area so most of the things are
closed and villages seem rather dead. From Barichara there is a nice, easy hike Camino Real (Royal Path) full of colorful birds that took us to Guane. It was like a mini Barichara, quite pretty streets with all the shops closed (Tuesday of course!) except for liquor shops (hmmm). After 10 minutes we already saw the whole village and there was nothing more left to do than to sit in the main square and wait for the bus to go back. It actually wasn't as boring as it sounds as there were really many beautiful birds flying around. Obviously too fast and too far for my photographic skills...



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Panama City, Panama

Where the modern meets the old – Panama City

Panama City is most certainly not like any other city we saw in Latin America. First of all it's really clean, we could walk around in our flip flops without having to jump between mountains of poo. There were way less homeless people lying on the streets. We didn't have to look around anxiously while running through the pedestrian crossings because the drivers were really stopping on red!! And not only a red light would stop them, every time I was taking a picture, they would stop not to destroy my shot. Panama City was definitely a whole other world compared to other cities in Latin America. Rather peaceful, cheerful people and... It was actually really pretty! We are both not particularly city people and for sure we are not in love with cities that we saw so far. But Panama City was so vibrant, colorful and organised. The old city town was charming, full of soul, hip cafes and restaurants and undisturbed by skyscrapers. It was visible that someone thought about the city before building its new part which is completely separated from the old part. They didn't think too hard though as in the middle of the modern part of the city they placed a Donald Trump tower but well ... It still has it's charm. For those who want to drive through the city but skip the narrow streets of the old there is a road that goes above the water. It's faster and it offers incredible views of the old & new.
Honestly we both thought The Canal was the least impressive of all that Panama City had to offer. It was massive but it was nothing special. Big ships passing through a big canal that's pretty much it.
Below few pictures from lovely Panama City:)