Saturday, July 26, 2008

Church of Sant Bartolmeu i Santa Tecla, Sitges

When you arrive in Sitges the Church of Santa Thecla is visible, as it rests on a cliff where the oldest part of Sitges once stood.

It is dedicated to the Santa Thecla and San Bartolomew. Santa Thecla was a 1st century follower of Saint Paul from Tarsus. She is not mentioned in the Bible, but her life is recorded in the Apochryphal Acts of Paul and Thecla.

San Bartolomew was one of Jesus diciples, and a witness of Jesus ascension to the heavens.

The present church was built in baroque style in either the 17th or the 18th century. It is a beautiful place to walk to, as from here you have a great view to the southern part of the city and over the Mediterranean sea. It is also a gateway to the oldest part of Sitges.

Friday, July 25, 2008

An ancient Christian centre

Lyon is an ancient Christian centre in Western Europe, in fact probably the oldest outside of Rome. Lyon was the home of the church father Irenaeus that died in the city 202 AD, and there are remains of churches here that may date back to the time when he lived.

By the cathedral, you find a small open space. Here you can see ruins of what once were two churches. The Church of Saint Etienne and the Church of Sainte Croix once formed the episcopal complex of Lyon.

The foundation of these old churches may actually be the oldest church buildings in Western Europe outside Rome. They may date back to around 170 AD. They are mentioned in the account of the persecution of the Christians in 177 AD, in which Saint Blandine was brutally murdered.

Saint Blandine was supposed to end her life as food for wild beasts at the Amphitheatre des Trois Gaules. After the beasts had refused to kill her, Roman soldiers had to do the terrible deed.

In the 4th century, as the Roman settlement in Lyon was in process of abandonment the city centre was moved and concentrated to where the old city now is located, under the Fourvière Hill by the Saône river bank.

Here they built the two churches and later a 6th century church, on whose foundation the present cathedral was built. The cathedral is the only church building that survived on the site. It was finished in 1476.

Still, today you can walk along ruins that predates most churches in Western Europe. Here you are by the cradle of Western European Christianity. Irenaeus of Lyon played an important role in the fight against heretics within the church, particularly members of the gnostic movements.

It is remarkable to visit places that played such a role in the drama that has shaped so much of the European history. Once the Christian movement was fighting to establish itself in a hostile Roman empire just here. A weak and fragile movement that were to conquer and outlive a dying classical civilization. A process that would lead to persecutions as terrible as the the ones in 177 - against the enemies of Christianity.

This would happen a millennium later, close to Lyon as the Roman Catholic church declared a crusade against the Cathars in Languedoc.

The history of Europe is full of paradoxes, and you may sense them in places as the little garden by the Cathedral by the Saône river.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Budva’s Riviera

Budva’s Riviera is a stretch of coast with high cliffs and long beaches, all tucked beneath wild rugged mountains, which makes up a considerable part of Montenegro’s coast.

By guest writer Susanne Koch

This summer I spent three weeks on Budva’s Riviera, experiencing each bay, each beach and each village. Here’s a guide to Budva’s Riviera:

If you enjoy swimming or water sports like kayaking, parasailing and jet skiing you have plenty of opportunities along Budva’s Riviera. The water is invariably crystal clear and clean and during three weeks of splashing around in it, I never saw a jellyfish, a broken bottle or even a sharp stone to ruin the experience.

Budva is in many ways an ugly town. It’s like the boomtowns of the Wild West where anything goes. There’s a lot of construction going on and a myriad of street vendors, selling mostly stuff you don’t need at rather stiff prices.

The long, long beach, called Slovenska Plaza, is among the redeeming features. Even though it is narrow in places, it’s so long it feels spacious anyway. The beach is lined with bars and restaurants, some of which are quite nice.

My favorite part of Budva is the Old Town, where you can walk in medieval streets and relax in one of the many nice cafes and bars. Another nice experience in Budva is the Mogren beach which lies at the end of the town square. It’s smaller than Slovenska Plaza and more peaceful. It’s a great place to have a drink before dinner.

In the 1930’s Becici was selected by tourists to be Europe’s most beautiful beach. It must have been glorious back then: A semi circle with miles of sandy beach, blue ocean and dramatic green mountains.

It’s not any more, though. One part of the beach now has five huge hotels, most of them not exactly charming. The other part of the beach is lined with bars, grills, street vendors and beach clubs in the boomtown style of Budva.

Rafailovici is a tiny village with a handful of restaurants and hotels at the far end of the Becici bay. It’s a charming place with a slower pace. The beach can be crowded at times, but no one seems to care and the prevailing atmosphere is one of relaxed enjoyment.

Kamenovo is a lovely bay. The hill is too steep for hotels, but lots of people come here to spend the day. It’s a short walk from Rafailovici and there are several bars and one or two quite basic restaurants.

This little village has one or two hotels and a very nice little beach. The beach was a little crowded, but I didn’t mind. There are several restaurants right on the water’s edge, where you can have a very nice seafood dinner watching the sun set and the swallows flying over the ruins of an old chapel on a little island in the bay. My best moments this summer were spent in Przno.

Sveti Stefan
Sveti Stefan is famous for it’s luxury hotel by the same name, an entire little fisherman’s island converted into lodging for the rich and famous. But there is also a nice public beach here, which can be reached by boat or bus from Budva and Becici.

Many of the beaches along Budva’s Riviera are too noisy for my taste, especially in Budva and Becici where there is a number of outdoor bars and nightclubs along the beach.

Some of these are quite charming, but many of them are noisy to the point of ruining any chance of a conversation in their vicinity.

I stayed in Becici and enjoyed myself, but after two weeks I was desperate for a quiet space: The hotel played music in the restaurant for breakfast lunch and dinner and there was music by the pool and on the beach. And the neighboring beach also played music, as did the beach bars along the beach.

As a rule of thumb, the farther away from Budva you get, the more quiet it gets. Budva and Becici are noisy at all hours, while Rafailovici is quieter. Kamenovo can get noisy by day but is quiet in the evening. Przno and Sveti Stefan are peaceful and quiet.

Susanne Koch is an Internet professional who works as an e-learning and web communication adviser at the University of Oslo. She blogs about search engines and search engine optimization at Susanne loves to travel and blogs about her journeys at Susi's Souvenirs. You may also want to have a look at Susanne Koch's homepage.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Food and drink in Montenegro

Montenegro is one of the world’s youngest countries, but it has an ancient culture. Its inhabitants are proud of their heritage and happy to serve their traditional dishes.

By guest writer Susanne Koch

The agricultural produce that is offered is always local. Montenegro’s farms are almost without exception small scale and their production is ecologic and sustainable. So be sure to order salad with your meal. It’s always fresh and delicious.

The regional specialty is called shopska salad contains tomatoes, cucumbers, grated feta cheese and often white onion and pale green peppers. The equally popular srpska salad is basically shopska without the cheese.

Along the coast, you get excellent seafood of all kinds. The ingredients are always fresh and local and there is a great variety on offer: Enjoy huge grilled shrimps, seafood skewers, black risotto (with octopus ink), lobsters or clams. My favorite is grilled squid.

Or try the catch of the day: A platter with the variety of fish available is brought to your table and you get to choose. Fish is often served with boiled potatoes, roughly cubed and mixed with garlic, spinach and butter. These tastes go perfectly with fried fish.

In other parts of the country, carp is popular, particularly in the areas around Skadar Lake, the largest lake on the Balkan Peninsula. I tried some salted smoked carp with my breakfast salad and it was delicate.

Some restaurants offer a selection of international meat dishes like schnitzels and steaks. But try the local specialties, which are hearty and tasty:

Cevapcici are a local type of meatballs, made from a mix of beef and pork and sometimes lamb. They are not balls at all, though, but cylindrical in shape. They often contain onions and a small amount of chili pepper, which gives them a nice zing. Here is a recipe for cevapcici.

The same recipe that makes cevapcici is also made into huge “steaks” served with vegetables and potatoes.

There are several varieties of sausages. These often consist of coarsely ground meat, which gives them a nice consistency and they can be quite spicy.

Meat grilled on skewers is also popular. This is most often pork.

Other specialties
Smoked salted ham from the mountains is considered a delicacy, especially njeguski przut, ham from the Njegusi area. It is readily available and highly recommended. Another specialty from njeguski syr, a white, matured cheese.

Kajmak is a dairy product made in the Balkans, Turkey, and even Iran and India. In Montenegro, kajmak is made from cow’s milk. It is similar to sour cream in taste, but milder and it has a soft, creamy consistency. Kajmak from the Njegusi highlands is particularly sought after and sells for 20 Euro per kilo. Here is a recipe for kajmak.

Quite a lot of wine is produced in Montenegro, much of it for private consumption. One company, Plantaze, produces wine for export. This structure is remnant from the collective farms of the communist era.

Montenegro has two autochtonous grapes: krstaz (white) and vrnac (red). Vranac pro Cordem is a vranac with a high level of prothoanthocyanidol and is marketed as being good for your heart.

Susanne Koch is an Internet professional who works as an e-learning and web communication adviser at the University of Oslo. She blogs about search engines and search engine optimization at Susanne loves to travel and blogs about her journeys at Susi's Souvenirs. You may also want to have a look at Susanne Koch's homepage.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Two Scandinavian airports among the world’s best airports.

Copenhagen International Airport and Helsinki International airport were ranked as the 7th and the 9th of the world’s best airports by Skytrax research, the leading research Advisers to the world airline and air transport industry. London Heathrow was given a meagre 2 star rating confirming its record as a low performing airport.

The ranking is based on a survey among 8,2 million travellers answering a range of 39 different questions on shopping, airport restaurants, service and airport punctuality. Hong Kong Airport was once again awarded the honour of being the best airport in the world, followed by the Singapore Changi and Seoul Incheon airports.

Münich airport in Germany was the highest ranking European airport on Skytrax lists. Awarded a 4th position it was given a five star rating. This means according to Skytrax rating:

“The ultimate Approval, awarded to Airports achieving the highest Quality standards. A 5 Star ranking recognises highest standards of Product and Service delivery across the many different assessment categories in the Airport environments. 5 Star Status recognizes airports which are at the forefront of product / service innovation”

Copenhagen airport was given the same excellent rating, whereas Helsinki Airport, the 9th on the list was awarded 4 stars, given to airports achieving a good overall Quality performance. A 4 Star ranking signifies Airports providing a good standard of Product and Service delivery across many different assessment categories in the Airport environment.”

Read more on the awards on the Skytrax official site

Enjoy Food & Travel is satisfied that Heathrow airport, according to Skytrax, only holds a 2 star rating. This rating is given to Airports “supplying for a poor Quality performance - falling below the industry average in the measured competitive product and service sectors. 2 Star ranking represents a poor standard of Product across different ranking categories - and poor standards of Staff Service delivery across the Airport environment.”

The opening of Heathrow Terminal 5 in March has been a disaster. Even 4 months later up to 900 passengers manage to get to their corresponding flights every day, finding that their luggage do not. Having declared Heathrow hell on earth, I am glad that the Skytrax advisers find it likewise. Heathrow has simply grown out of all proportions and you risk losing your flights as well as your luggage unless there are at least 2-3 hours to your corresponding flight.

Ye be warned!!!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Medication on your travel

When travelling, it is smart to bring some basic medication. I experienced this as I got stomach flu while flying from Boston to Reykjavik two years ago. Conditions like these are preventable. Visit your local pharmacy and seek advice. Here are a few pieces of advice from Enjoy Food & Travel on medication on your travels.

Packing of important medication

Many of us are on medication to treat different illnesses. If medication must be taken without interruption, remember that your luggage may end up on the wrong flight. I highly recommend that you pack life important medication for your whole travel in your hand luggage, as well as in your suit case. In this way you will have the amount necessary for the whole duration of your trip available even if your luggage is lost.

Fear of flying?

If you have hypertension or a heart condition, and hate to fly, alcohol provides a bad solution during long flights. Alcohol dehydrates you seriously and it is strongly recommended that you drink water instead of booze.

Your physician may prescribe a tranquilizer for you in order to maintain fit as well as calm during your flight. Be aware that there are international rules regulating transportation of certain prescription drugs. Your doctor or pharmacist may provide you with more information to avoid problems.

Editors remark, July 21st:

Uncle Tom has left the following remark on the site. Thank you for a good remark to my article

"According to the World Health Organization, flight anxiety should never be treated with medication due to the increased risk of deep vein thrombosis. When flying, the risk of DVT doubles when immobile for four hours.

There are ways to treat fear of flying that are far more effective than medication. A video at explains the cause of the problem and some of the ways it can be cured."

Need of vaccination – check with your doctor?

As I traveled to South Africa last year I went to my doctor to check whether I needed vaccination. I was given a prescription for malaria tablets, and a standard package of different shots needed. If traveling to tropical or subtropical regions consult your doctor to check whether any vaccines are necessary.

Element of my small medicine box

Here is what I bring when traveling abroad.

Caution - do always consult the instructions in the packet before you start using the medication, and consult your pharmacist to find what you may need.

Immodium (loperamide) is to be taken when experiencing diarrhea. It helped through my flight with severe stomach flu. These pills should, however only be taken, if absolutely necessary, as a stomach flu often gets rid of the microbes causing the infection.
Ibuprofen – these are pills that are muscle relaxant, reduce inflammatory conditions as well as an efficient painkiller. Ibuprofen was the only thing that helped when I had severe toothache while attending a conference in London in May 2005. Should not be taken if you have an ulcer as it may irritate the digestive system.
Zyrtec (Cetirizine). I always bring allergy pills as I have a strong allergy to bites from mosquitoes and other insects. Should be taken a week prior to departure and during your trip to have full effect. If you are allergic do consult your doctor as there are many different medications on the market.
Ibuprofen cream - very good to treat aches or bruises.
Desinfecting liquid. Particularly important if you travel to warm regions, and where may need to clean open sores.
Probiotic - you may feel ill when traveling to the tropics, without having any infection. This as you are exposed to another bacterial flora. When starting to take a probiotic a week before departure you increase the amount of "nice" bacteria in your colon. This may counteract the effects of another microbiological flora.
Have a nice trip and stay fit!!!