Category Archives: Free and Cheap

Carmel-By-The-Sea Day Trip, Point Lobos and Mission Carmel

~K~

Just about an hour and a half south of us here in San Jose lies the world famous Carmel by the sea. While we’ve visited Monterey, which is just a few miles north, we had yet to really take in Carmel.

The picturesque location of mountains meeting the sea shore gives no wonder to why it’s such a popular day trip for many in the Bay Area. We had been back in California for a couple months at this point, and I was really itching to get a good coastal hike. After some research I decided I wanted to go to Point Lobos State National Reserve and Briana planned a couple other stops for our time down there such as Mission San Carlos Borromeo del río Carmelo (better known as Mission Carmel). 

Whaler's Cove Point Lobos

Mission

Stairs At Mission Carmel

We arrived at the Mission just after noon on a very clear and somewhat warm Sunday. It was pretty busy, as it is an operating mission, but we managed to get parking easily enough and made our way in to see the site.

The campus is large, and a perfect example of a classic Spanish Mission: adobe plaster, warm colored brick, and ceramic tile roofs. Mission Carmel had a distinct charm and personality to it, one that I find perfectly characterized by it’s crooked window above the entrance to the church.

Fountain At Mission Carmel

The grounds were well landscaped with numerous flowers and fountains. Throughout the compound there were also numerous rooms that we could visit that held various histories and artifacts related to the Mission and surrounding area.

Chapel Entrance At Mission Carmel
Fountain At Mission Carmel

The mission was established June 3, 1770. The mission served primarily to baptize the native Ohlone Indian population. It reached a peak of 927 members in 1794, but had dwindled back down to 381 by 1823.

Graveyard At Mission Carmel

The missions was secularized in 1833 by the Mexican government and slowly fell into ruin and disrepair until the Roman Catholic Church regained authority of the mission in 1863, with extensive restoration beginning in 1931.

Tomb At Mission Carmel

Today the mission serves multiple roles as a museum, working mission, and minor basilica.

Display In Mission Carmel

Carmelite Monastery

We also planned on visiting the Carmelite Monastery on our way to Point Lobos. I had thought this would make for a good starting point to our Point Lobos excursion. I was wrong – but it was still a nice stop.

Carmelite Monastery Monterey

The Monastery is mostly closed off to visitors. While you can visit, you will need to set up an appointment first. With that being said, you can walk around the grounds and enjoy the sea breeze.

Bri in The Carmelite Monastery Garden
Carmelite Monastery Garden

Point Lobos

Having parked at Monastery Beach, which sits across the street from the Carmelite Monastery, we made our way along the beach in search for the trail into Point Lobos. The maps online are very misleading, because it appears that you can enter the park via a trail at the far end of Monastery Beach – you cannot do this. As such, we walked about a mile up the road to main entrance to the park. It also turns out this is the only entrance into the park.

Monastery Beach
Warning Sign for Monastery Beach

Parking costs $10, however, there is no charge for people just walking in as we did. When you enter the park, you are a little bit away from the actual coast. Because of this, we set off for Whaler’s Cove via the Carmelo Meadow Trail.

Forest Trail through Point Lobos

Whaler’s Cove is the largest cove in Point Lobos, and it offers stunning views the seashore. Upon arriving, we were treated to a fresh breeze and picturesque landscapes. We slowly made our way around the top of the cliff sides until we reached a boat launch.

Whaler's Cove Panoramic

Here at the boat launch, we were treated to a great surprise: a Sea Otter with her pup, eating crabs. We sat here and watched for nearly a half hour before proceeding on. It was mesmerizing to watch the wildlife here, and we managed to snap a few other pics of the local sea life.

Sea Otter Eating A Crab
Crab on the Rocks

From here, we proceeded up a trail along the cliff edge and continued on the trim around the coastal trail. Here you can find a small whaling museum to visit. The museum features stuff such as the equipment used by whalers, whale bones, and baleen.

Whaling Display Near Museum
Bri With Whale Bones

Cannery Point offered a great view of the ocean (as did most spots). Artists sometimes will take advantage of the location.

Overlooking Whaler's Cove
Man Painting At Point Lobos

We kept on, passing through Big Dome and Cypress Coves before beginning to head back. While we only saw half the park at this point, we were beginning to get tired and the sun was beginning to go down, and we wanted to get back home before dark (we didn’t).

Cypress Cove Point Lobos

So when we came to a trail junction near Headland Cove, we turned inward back towards the park entrance. The park was very well maintained, so these trails in the interior were well manicured, paved, or had wooden walkways.

Meandering Trail In Point Lobos

The southern half of Point Lobos is considered phenomenal as well, as we plan on eventually making our way back to see the rest of the park. For those interested, you can also go scuba diving here and if you catch the park in the right season you can see whales and seals as well.

Sea Otter In Whaler's Cove Point Lobos

Entrance to Thang Long Water Puppet Theater

Thang Long Water Puppet Theater (Hanoi)

~B~

Soon after learning about this traditional art special to Vietnam- I put it on my must-do list for the country. We knew we would have multiple opportunities to catch a water puppet show so we put it off in Ho Ch Minh while we did other activities which could only be found there such as the War Remnants Museum, the Cu Chi Tunnels, and so on. Our first glimpse of a water puppet theater stage occurred there, though, in the Museum of Vietnamese History. There was a room with a stage and seating off to the side of one of the museum rooms where you could catch shows at certain times. This show, while on a smaller “stage” than the show we ended up seeing, is allegedly quite good! We might have gone except that it was starting as we arrived so we didn’t have much time to debate the extra little cost (we were on quite a budget at that time). There were other options in Ho Chi Minh as well, but ultimately we ended up going to the famous Thang Long Water Puppet Theater after making it to Hanoi.

Water Puppet Theater Entrance

One special thing about seeing the show there is that water puppetry actually originated in north Vietnam (specifically in the Red Delta River area in the north) back in the 11th century. Apparently this was a form of entertainment used by villagers when their rice fields were flooded. They were sometimes used to celebrate the end of the season (and possibly on other special occasions). In the old days, they would build pagodas in the rice fields which could hide the puppeteers who would stand in the (waist to chest deep) water controlling the puppets. The water hid the puppet controls and served as a stage. Back then, they would also often be dealing with cold water which could have leeches and water-borne diseases in order to put on these shows.

The Thang Long Water Puppet Theater was established in 1969 as a way to preserve tradition and increase tourism. The puppets they use are carved from wood and are controlled with bamboo rods and string. Scenes and skits performed in the show address aspects of daily life for rural farmers like fishing and farming, as well as performances relating to folklore, festivals, and more. Water puppet performers from this theater have toured 40 countries to put on shows as well. If you’d like to get a glimpse of what to expect, you can check out some videos on youtube.

Little Figures

Anyway, this was one of the first things we did our first time in Hanoi. Our last 10 days or so in HCM was spent away from District 1 (location of a lot of the touristy stuff) and was during the period of Tet so we had plenty of time to get work done and were able to go out and sight-see pretty immediately once we got to Hanoi. On our first day out we walked quite a bit but I believe it was the next day we chose to walk to the theater. It’s located near Hoan Kiem Lake and lots of other neat activities in the Old Quarter, but was quite a long walk from our Airbnb at the time.

Road near our Airbnb

When we got to the theater, they were sold out! Be aware that this could happen to you due to its popularity.

Crowded Theater

We did not find tickets available online at the time and it seems it may be fairly common for them to sell out early for the day and sometimes even the next day or two. So- we bought tickets for the next day, got some coffee (for Kyle) and tea (for me) and then wandered around the area proceeding to get quite lost, making our journey back hours longer.

Crowded Hanoi

The next day we were so exhausted we decided to just get a taxi down to the theater for our show time. The funny thing is that all of this could have been avoided because after our 10 days on Cat Ba we ended up staying at a place just around the corner from the theater! That’s how things go I guess! Fortunately, like everything else, transportation is pretty cheap there and our taxi ride only cost us about $2 and we walked the way back (pretty sure we got lost again).

Overall, we really enjoyed the show. I noticed from online reviews that it’s not everyone’s thing- but it was our’s! We weren’t entirely sure what to expect but here are some of the things we liked: 1. It was educational. I felt like I learned a little bit about the history of the area and even a little bit about current life for rural villagers in Vietnam. There were scenes of fishing, festival events, etc. 2. It was entertaining. The show even made me laugh out loud a couple times. 3. It was slightly interactive (like smoke for certain parts and dragons spraying out water- though not really at you per se). 4. The music. A traditional Vietnamese orchestra including a Dan bau, bamboo flutes, drums, and more plays as an accompaniment/accent to the show. There is also some Cheo (a type of opera) singing.

People playing instruments

The only thing that sort of got in the way for us was that we couldn’t understand what the puppets were saying (their “voice actors” spoke in Vietnamese). We didn’t mind because we were in Vietnam, but do feel we might have missed a few things or could have learned more if it was in English or we knew Vietnamese. Still, with many parts the music, tone, and actions of the puppets helped communicate things to us.

Here is the info:
Address: 57B Dinh Tien Hoang – Hanoi – Vietnam
Cost: 100k dong (~$5)
Times: I see varying things online so I would just check in person. Show times are mostly in the afternoon/evening, I believe, though.
Website: www.thanglongwaterpuppet.org
Other info: Shows last for one hour.

Combine it with: Hoan Kiem Lake and Ngoc Son Temple, Hoa La Prison (the “Hanoi Hilton”), the Temple of Literature, the Museum of Vietnamese history, the Vietnamese women’s museum, the Hanoi Opera House, and more!

In front of HK Lake

And if you can’t make it here there are a few other opportunities (such as these) across Vietnam to see water puppet shows of varying sizes.

Wat Pathum Bangkok Thailand

~K~

A trip to the heart of Bangkok will take you some of the highest-end malls and to some wonderful parks, and as you walk down Rama I road, you won’t be able to not notice the beautiful white walls and shining gold of Wat Pathumwanaram Ratcha Wora Vihan – or Wat Pathum for short. We stumbled across this Buddhist temple on accident while we were visiting the Siam Paragon Mall, and we saw the tell-tale roofs of a Buddhist temple.

Wat Pathum Wanaram

The temple itself is of a medium size, though it seems dwarfed by the massive malls and skyrail station beside it. The grounds of the temple stand as a quiet respite to the bustling cosmopolitan surroundings.

Wat Pathum Wanaram

The temple was founded in 1857 by King Rama IV as a place to worship near the Sa Pathum Palace. At the time, the area was only simple rice fields, but today it stands in one of the busiest parts of the city.

Wat Pathum Wanaram

The ashes of Thai Royal Family members from the line of Prince Mahidol Adulyadej are interred at the temple. The temple also served as a safe zone during the 2010 crackdown on Red Shirts anti-government protesters.

Wat Pathum Wanaram

The temple is simple, yet elegant and you can quietly slip away from the city here. If you’re passing by, it’s well worth a visit. There is no entrance fee, but of course, you are always welcome to place a donation at a til box.

Wat Pathum Wanaram

You can find it at:

969 Rama 1 Rd, Pathumwan,, Khwaeng Pathum Wan, Khet Pathum Wan, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10330, Thailand

Cyprus Beaches

~K~

Being an island in the middle of the Mediterranean, you’d expect Cyprus to have some wonderful beaches, and amazing coastal views – and you’d be right. The island has a wide range of beaches to visit, all with stunning views and great water. While we didn’t get to visit all the locations we would have liked, we still got to see a fair bit, and they all offered something a little different. It was great to finally get to a beach. It was really our first opportunity since we’d left Florida.

So I’m going to go ahead and show off the beaches of Cyprus we visited, in the order that we did.

Pissouri Beach
Pissouri Beach Cyprus

Pissouri Beach was the first of the Cyprus beaches we visited. The homeowners of our house sit were meeting up with friends and they asked us if we’d like to come along. They had decided on Pissouri because of a restaurant they liked as well as the ability to avoid the supposed crowds of Kourion Beach.

The beach here was very rocky, and we would have liked to have had water shoes – the homeowners did. But aside from that, it was really quite nice. Cliffs stood out against the sea as gentle waves came ashore.

Pissouri Beach Cyprus

The water was nice, with only a gentle swell and little to no current. You could easily spend hours floating in the water. It was also nice that once you made it about ten feet out, the large stones and pebbles made way for sand and easier walking.

Alykes Beach (Pafos Waterfront) and Municipal Baths
Pafos Swimming Pen

Alykes “Beach” we visited several times, though never actually got in the water. The first time was on my birthday when we decided to go to Pafos to celebrate. We walked past the beach, and discovered that it’s really hard to call it as such. There is no shore to speak of here, but that doesn’t stop hundreds of tourists and locals from enjoying the water.

Lounges and chairs line the waterfront. Ladders and small platforms allow you to enter the water.

Pafos Swimming Platform

As these are also a municipal baths, you find well equipped changing rooms and bathrooms right next to the water as well. The water seemed to be a little rougher here than at Pissouri, but if one was searching for calmer waters, there were walled off sections that could easily be used for younger kids or lap swimming.

Pafos Waterfront Boardwalk

One thing that is certain though, is that the water is crystal clear.

Kourion Beach
Kourion Beach Overlook

Our visit to Kourion Beach was the wind down to a long day trekking the Kourion ruins on the above cliffside with my parents. The beach was certainly a bit more crowded, but when we went all the way down to the end of the beach, we found some more private areas to swim, and enjoy a meal at a local restaurant (the best squid I’ve ever had).

Kourion Beach, like Pissouri Beach, is primarily smooth pebbles and rocks that gives way to sand once out in the water. Gently sloping, with easy waves, it is an enjoyable beach with great views of the surrounding sea cliffs.

Lady’s Mile Beach
Lady's Mile Beach Cyprus

Lady’s Mile Beach is located very near to the new Limassol Port. The beach, like the previously mentioned, is primarily a pebble beach. The water is very shallow though, so you can easily wade out into the water without it coming up high on you. The water is normally pretty calm here and can offer you a nice relaxing place to watch the local birds and cargo ships come in.

Lady's Mile Beach Cyprus

The road is a little rough though, so if your car is low-riding or not in good shape, you may not want to try this one out. If you have a 4 wheel drive though, you should have no problems at all.

If you drive far enough, you’ll eventually find sandy beach – but we stayed close to the start because of the rough roads.

Lady's Mile Pebbles
Molos (Limassol Waterfront) Beach
Limassol Beach

A few miles further north along the shore from Lady’s Mile is a nice beach called Molos Beach. This beach is a well-manicured park, that stretches for several miles along the Limassol waterfront. Here, a grassy, shady park lines the shore.

The beach itself is a soft sand, and as such attracts many locals and tourists. Most likely, it will be busy.

We didn’t get out into the water because we were visiting a cat cafe at the time, but we could see the the water was protected with stones a few hundred feet out, to make for a nice and calm swimming experience.

Finikoudes (Larnaka Waterfront) Beach
Larnaka Beach Front

The sandy Finikoudes Beach can be found in Larnaka just past the Tomb of St. Lazarus. A picturesque beach, filled with tourists and locals alike, you’ll find that there are many restaurants, cafes, and shops that line the beach.

Larnaka Beachfront

As well, you can visit the Larnaka castle which sits right on the beach.

The water itself is gently sloped and remains shallow for a fair ways out, so you can easily take a stroll in the water without worrying about getting soaked if you don’t want to.

Petra tou Romiou (Aphrodite’s Rock)
Beach Near Aphrodite's Rock

Down the coast about twenty minutes from Pafos, lies the mythical Petra tou Romiou, also known as Aphrodite’s Rock. According to myth, it is the place that the Greek Goddess Aphrodite was born – emerging from the sea foam.

It is said that if you swim around the rock, you will be granted with youth and graceful aging. We decided to not try to test this superstition out however, as the water here was pretty rough, and we didn’t want to get thrashed against the rocks.

Instead we elected to have a picnic on the beach with pita, hummus, yogurt, and wine.

Picnic at Aphrodite's Rock

Getting down to the beach can be a little bit tricky, as the tunnel which takes under the road and onto the beach isn’t obvious at first. It’s located next to the restaurant with the same name.

The beach itself is very much a rocky beach, with stones, pebbles, and boulders primarily being present. Not the greatest place to lay out, but the location is very scenic and quite iconic.

The water here, is far rougher than the other beaches as it sits on a point of land that juts out. Strong currents, cold water, and a steep and almost immediate drop off make this beach not super friendly for young children or weak swimmers. However, it’s awesome for one key feature: the jumping rock.

Just about fifteen feet out into the water sits a pretty large rock mount, and as we witnessed – you can climb it and jump off into the waves. Some of the people were really being risky and making huge dives and just barely skimming the rocks, while others were showing off with flips.

Aphrodite's Rock Guy Jumping

I decided that I wanted to jump too, so I followed someone’s lead on climbing the wet, vertical, and sharp rock. It was a little difficult at first to climb, the rock was very slick and sharp (I actually did cut my hand a little) and was quite literally – vertical. But once about ten feet up, the rock began to slope and it was far easier to climb. It was fun to climb and jump from – I do regret only doing it once.

Kyle Jumping from Aphrodite's Rock

Honorable Mention:

There are many, many more beaches on Cyprus that we simply didn’t make it to for whatever reasons. But you can check out the key beaches that we wish we had made it to here – we really wish we could have made it to Ayia Napa:

Cyprus Island

LoveCyprus2Site

The Tunnels, Book Review

~K~

So a little while ago, we decided to try out this cool thing that Briana found called Blogging For Books. It’s pretty simple, they send you a book for free and then you just have to write a review about it and post it on their site and as a post on your blog.

The first book I chose was “The Tunnels” by Greg Mitchell. I was in no way required to give a good review, simply an honest review. So here we go.

The Tunnels brings to face the harrowing conditions and turmoil that Berlin faced through the height of the cold war. The stories of the individuals, brought to light by the investigative work of Greg Mitchell, highlights the heroics of the ordinary people who braved ever heightening tensions to bring friends, family, and loved ones out of the control of Soviet controlled East Berlin.

The narrative paints a picture of struggle and conflict simmering to a boil. Through the real life accounts of prison, torture, death, and murder – Mitchell keeps the focus squarely on those who orchestrated the tunnel projects under the Berlin Wall and the political developments that brought about the predicament.

The book also serves as an eerily relevant critique of immigration, as a political tool to control and deny people the basic rights of life. In a time when discussion of a new wall being erected sounds out on the news stations, this book serves as a chilling, thrilling, and informative read that stands to not only commemorate those who worked, fought, and died for others, but also as a warning to look at our current day situation.

neolithic settlement at choirokoitia cyprus

Choirokoitia Neolithic Site, Cyprus

~K~

Cyprus is home to several prehistoric sites across the island, with Choirokoitia being one of the largest, and best preserved sites. It also just so happened to be pretty easily accessible. It lies just off the highway about halfway between Limassol and Larnaka and is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Hill top at Choirokoitia

We made our way out to the site during the time that Briana’s dad was visiting us. Just like our other adventures out to Tomb of the Kings and Kurion, this would also turn into a hike. 

Being the middle of summer, it was really hot out probably somewhere in the mid to upper 90s so we made sure to bring a fair amount of water and we put on a little sunscreen. The site, like much of the island, is very dry, on the verge of being desert.

Cyprus Thistle

Upon arrival, we saw that the site was very well maintained with a visitor entrance, bathrooms, plaques, and some stone pavement. Entrance to the park cost 2.50 Euro per person, so it was not too bad a price.

Entrance
Entry Path

The site lies at one end of a longer hiking trail that will take you to several neolithic sites including the Kalavasos-Tenta (another site you can see off of the highway) and the Byzantine church of the Panagia tou Kambou. However, considering the heat of the day and the fact that the hiking trail was several miles in length, we elected to just see the Choirokoitia site.

This worked out perfectly anyways as we still were able to explore the site itself for around two hours at a leisurely pace. The entire site makes its way around a hill, with several smaller sections to view. Near the entrance, manicured paths take you to various plaques that describe how the aboriginals of Choirokoitia lived on the land as well as about the wildlife, climate, and habitat of the region.

Fig at Choirokoitia
Building at Choirokoitia

There are also several brick and plaster buildings that have been preserved and restored that you can view. These buildings show how family units would have lived, with each building serving as a room, arranged in a circular pattern forming a larger familial structure.

Restored Village
Interior of Restored Village

Moving on from here, the path turns more to a worn dirt trail and makes its way around the bend, overlooking what used to be a river. It could still be river, but it was hard to see if there was any water considering the drought. Regardless, in ancient times, the settlement existed due to it’s location next to the Maroni River.

Hillside

Along this section we found the remains of ancient walls and early settlements. It is believed however, that this particular site was later abandoned in favor of a location further up the hill by a few hundred feet.

Archaeological Trail
Wall at Choirokoitia

When we arrived the larger location we were struck by the enormity of the site. Numerous stone alleyways, rooms, and buildings stood embedded into the hillside. For preservation purposes, we were not allowed to go into the ruins themselves (which were covered by a tarp to protect from the harsh sun), but elevated walkways and ramps provided for ample viewing of the archaeological dig.

Upper Village Choirokoitia

The structure itself feels small due to the fact that the people of Choirokoitia were between 4’11” and 5’3”. The 300 to 600 inhabitants only lived to 35 years on average.

For reasons unknown, the people of Choirokoitia abruptly abandoned the village around 6000 BCE. The region was not inhabited again for another 1500 years. Recent evidence in Limassol has pointed though, to the theory that the people simply moved further west – mostly likely in response to climate pressures. 

Looking at the Restored village

At the top of the village there is a viewing platform that provides for a great view of the surrounding hills and valley.

All in all the site of Choirokoitia is a great place to see. It’s a little off the beaten tourist path that you’ll encounter near Pafos, but it’s no less amazing. If you want to visit, it is open daily from 8.00 – 17.00.

Neolithic Cave at Choirokoitia

late afternoon october Belgrade Serbia Interior gun display of kalemagden fortress belgrade serbia

Kalemagdan Fortress Of Belgrade, Serbia

~K~

After a long walk from our AirBNB, we began our final approach through the well manicured, gently rising park to Kalemagdan Fortress. Sitting atop the ridge at the confluence of the Danube and the Sava river, the fortress has stood as the center of Belgrade since it was constructed by Justinian I in 535. The city had existed though since the 3rd century BCE as Singidunum. The fortress has remained an important icon to the history of Belgrade, standing strong through the mainly invasions and occupations of Serbia.

Kalemagden Statue
Kalemagden Front Gate

Passing through the flowered gardens, vendors with trinkets, and statues and busts of famous figures, the crisp wind of fall swept through the descending leaves and welcomed us into the massive stone entry. We were brought into an interior space filled with relics from the World Wars, most notably artillery, as well as recreational spaces. We proceeded on though, as were making our way to upper part of the fortress.

Kalemagden Park
Kalemagden Canons

This was not our first time at Belgrade Fortress, due to it’s location and size, it’s quite easy to make several trips to visit. We previously had ventured along the western side of the fortress, looking down upon the Sava and it’s moored bar / barges. The gardens that surround the fortress offer a great place to relax. It also offers wonderful panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.

Kalemagden Wall Overlook
Kalemagden Wall Overlook
Kalemagden Sava River

Our first foray into the fortress was from this western side, and presented slight difficulty as there was some construction going on. However, a quick climb put us right at the top and inner field within the fortress. We took a few photos, but as we’d already had a full day, we did not do a full exploration of the grounds.

Kalemagden Draw Bridge
Kalemagden Interior Home
Kalemagden Front Cliff

However, this time, we took a more thorough look around, and already knew what to expect and where to look. We were in search of the Ruzica church which we knew lay at the northeastern edge of the fort.

Kalemagden Ruzica Walls

We made our way out through the various bridges and fortifications of the massive fortress and eventually came out at one of the entrances facing the Danube. Jutting from the base of the walls was the Ruzica church. The church is small, but has a character to it. The chandeliers are made of the used bullet casings and swords from soldiers during the first World War.

Kalemagden Briana In Ramparts
Kalemagden Side Gate
Kalemagden Cliff Gate Briana
Interior of Ruzica

Setting out from the church, we could see the sun was beginning to set on the Danube, and we made our way down the hill towards a small ruin. What it was, we don’t know, but the crumbling stone walls indicate it was of some importance to the massive fortifications above.

Kalemagden Grass Hills
Kalemagden Field Path
Kalemagden Ruins

Before night fell, we made our way out of the fortress compound on the north where a large manicured field lays.

Kalemagden Panorama

The region around and within the fortress houses a lot to do. There is the Belgrade Zoo, Fortress Exhibition, Gallery of Natural History, and the Monument of Gratitude to France.

Kalemagden Dino Park
Zoo Mural
Kalemagden Tennis Courts
Kalemagden Briana On The Ramarts

The Big Churches Of Belgrade, Serbia

~K~

Christian influence into the region we know today as Serbia began in the 2nd century. Byzantine missionaries in the 9th century promoted and spread the religion across the land, with Christianity being declared the state religion.

Over the years, the march of history has brought Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam, and Judaism to the region, but Eastern Orthodoxy and Serbian Orthodoxy reign supreme in the region at 84% of the population.

As such, you can find numerous churches across Belgrade (and the nation). We visited a few of the more notable churches and cathedrals. And needless to say, they are quite impressive. Here I am going to go over the three big ones that should be on your tour lists.

Church of Saint Mark

St Marks Cathedral

This church was the first place that we visited. Sitting at the north end of Tasmajdan Park, it is a stunning and imposing church dedicated to the Apostle and Evangelist Mark. It was originally built in the 1830s, but the new church, as you see it today, was built in 1940.

St Marks Cathedral

The exterior is made of two colors of naturally occurring red stone. The interior is a large room that rises to 60 meters (186 feet). There is highly decorated gold throughout the church.

St Marks Interior
Interior of St Marks

Though we only entered the church once, we passed by it numerous times on our way to other parts of Belgrade.

St Marks Alter
St Marks

Today, the remains of Tzar Dushan, a prominent figure in medieval Serbian history is buried beneath the church.

St Marks Plaque

Saint Sava Temple

St Sava

We came to the Church of Saint Sava multiple times during our stay in Belgrade. The surrounding grounds are large parks and fountains as well as a large library. The church stands as a dazzling centerpiece to the area. We attempted to view the library, however you cannot simply go in as a tourist. We were limited to a very small display of old books and bibles.

St Sava Statue
St Sava Park
National Library

In 1594, Serbs rose against the Ottoman rule, during which time they carried flags with the icon of Saint Sava. The Ottomans responded by taking the sarcophagus and relics of Saint Sava and brought them to Belgrade, where they killed anyone in their path and then burned the remains on the Vracar plateau.

St Sava Front

Three hundred years later in 1895, it was proposed to build a temple to St. Sava at the place of the burning. Construction began in 1905, but was delayed by the first and second Balkan War as well as World War I & II. Construction began again in 1985 and progress has slowly continued.

St Sava Candles

Today, the church is nearly complete. The exterior is finished, though interior work continues as decoration of the walls and dome take form.

St Sava Interior
St Sava Interior Arch

The church is organized in the form of a Greek Cross, with a central dome rising 80 meters, and four semi-domes at each arm. The facade is white marble and granite, and the interior will be mosaics once completed. The church is one of the largest Orthodox churches in the world by volume and is the largest in Serbia.

St Sava Murals
St Sava Interior Dome

Ruzica

Outside Ruzica
Ruzica Ivy

We visited the Ruzica Church at the base of Kalemagden Fort on the Danube. The original construction is not known, but the Ottomans destroyed the original church in 1521. It was later converted to a gunpowder magazine in the 18th century and then converted to a military church in 1867.

Ruzica Church
Interior of Ruzica

It was heavily damaged during the first World War and underwent renovations in 1925. Today, the church is decorated by chandeliers built from the spent casings and swords from soldiers during the first World War.

Ruzica Chandeleir
Ruzica Lawn

Family Friendly part of bangkok

Lumphini Park

~B+K~

I added Lumphini Park into our itinerary for the day we visited the Snake Farm (Kyle’s choice) and Wat Hua Lumphong because it was nearby, I wanted to go to a park, and most of all: I wanted to ride the duck pedal boats in the lake! The last time I rode a pedal boat was when I was a child visiting Germany (or maybe Austria) with my family (when we lived in Italy) and it was a lot of fun! I thought this would be a neat activity for us and it would only cost just over a dollar.

Duck boat

After our long day which included the walk to the metro station, the ride there, the above activities, and various other little stops, we were pretty tired but I knew I would be upset if we didn’t go. 

Upon entering, we found that there were many people enjoying the park. Several thousand citizens were going about their days. We noticed that the park is a popular fitness place, with lots of people running around and others taking part in various group exercise/aerobics classes. There were also many families and individuals simply taking in the nature.

Runners in the park

At first we just plopped down in the grass and enjoyed the weather and people-watched for a bit.

Kyle in grass
Warm Bangkok Sun

After we had rested, we decided to go for a stroll.

Looking at lumphini lake

The wildlife was quite active, with many birds, fish, and turtles going about their business. We had read that there were monitor lizards at the park, but we weren’t sure if we’d actually be able to see them – we found a couple early on swimming the lake and it was pretty neat.

Monitor Lizard at Lumphini Park

We proceeded on a bit afterwards, and even came across a collared cat. We don’t know whose cat it was, but most likely it was just someone’s indoor/outdoor cat that found a great place for a nap. We pictured his owners going for a run and seeing him sitting there and say ‘So, this is where you go during the day, Oscar.’

Cat Nap

Finally, we located the swan-boat rental area. The cost is/was 40 baht for a half-hour ($1.13). Initially you must give 80 baht, but as long as you make it back in time, they’ll refund you 40 baht. We hopped into the boat and spent the next half hour puttering about the lake.

Park in BangkokOn Lumphini LakeKyle paddlingIn the boat

We also had a great skyline view in some areas.

Bangkok Skyline

Towards the end of our ride, we stumbled upon what is apparently the resting ground for the monitor lizards, because we found dozens of them dozing in the late afternoon shade along the bank of the lake. We noticed that they were actually pretty much everywhere, climbing onto boats, or where ever else they could find a quiet spot. We tried not to bother them, though because it’s clear they just want to be left to themselves and can become scared quite easily, despite looking like mini dinosaurs.

Monitor Lizard

The sun began to go down as we got out of the boat, so we made our way back to the entrance. Luckily, there is a metro station not far from the entrance which makes it easy to access.

Sunset Reflections

More on the park:

The park was created in the 1920s by King Rama VI. Originally meant to be an exhibition center, it was converted into the first public park in the city after World War I. It was named after the birthplace of Buddha in Nepal. Today, a statue of the king greets you at the southeast entrance to the 142 acre park. You will find more than a park, though. Lumpini park is home to a library, an apprentice school, an Elder Citizens club, and more. If you can get to the park early, you’ll find tai chi classes offered. As well, there are various playgrounds for children. Between 10 and 3 you can also cycle for exercise.

If you want to visit, you can get to it via the MRT Subway Silom or Lumphini Station and the BTS Saladaeng. The park is open from 4:30am to 9:00pm. 

All in all, it’s a great place to enjoy nature while you’re in a city of over 12 million people. 

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If you like parks, also check out these other other parks/similar within other large cities:

Parks and Gardens in San Jose

Le Van Tam Park (in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam)

Bukit Nanas Rainforest (in Kuala Lumpur)

Paphos, Cyprus – Activities And Adventures

~K~

Paphos

The coastal city of Paphos lies on the the southwestern most shore of Cyprus. Easily reached via the A6 highway, it is a very direct route from the primary airport on the island in Larnaka, and is just under an hour’s ride from the major port city of Limassol. Paphos is also home to Cyprus’ second largest airport. The city is a bustling resort town that enjoys a mild Mediterranean climate and is considered to have the mildest temperatures on the island.

Paphos Lighthouse

The city is made up of two parts: Old and New Paphos. Old Paphos has been inhabited since Neolithic times, and was the center of the cult of Aphrodite at Petra Tou Romio and various pre-Hellenistic fertility deities. New Paphos contains the modern buildings and resorts, as well as ruins and archaeological sites from the Classical, Hellenistic, and Roman periods.

We visited Pafos on two occasions during our stay on Cyprus: once on my birthday and another time with Briana’s dad while he was visiting us.

Paphos Waterfront

Waterfront

Paphos Waterfront

The Paphos waterfront is a lively resort area with numerous cafes, restaurants, and souvenir shops. You’ll also find plenty of public “beaches”, or rather swimming spots. The waters surrounding Cyprus tend to lend themselves to go swimming, but often lack any sand but instead have large pebbles. In this case, there aren’t even pebbles, just a spot to jump in. We didn’t partake in any swimming, but dozens of swimmers were enjoying themselves.

Paphos Waterfront
Paphose Waterfront

We ate at two different locations on the waterfront. Once for my birthday, which had a pretty good basket of fish n’ chips, and a really strong Irish coffee. Generally I think of an Irish coffee as a bit of Bailey’s in the coffee, but they just threw in a bunch of whiskey on this one. The other place (Mar Bianco Cafe Bistro) was right along the main boardwalk with Briana’s dad who treated us to some wonderful Cypriot food. In both cases the food was plentiful, a trend we found across the entire island.

Meal At Paphos
Paphos Food

We also enjoyed a delicious smoothie from an ice cream shop on our first outing.

The famous Pink Pelican of Paphos Harbor will also make itself seen frequently, and has become a bit of a tourist attraction. While sadly not the original, you’ll find him most days at the Pelican Bar which is aptly named for the bird.

Pink Pelicans At Paphos

Paphos Castle

Paphos Castle

At the very end of Paphos Harbor you’ll find the historical Paphos Castle. Originally built as a Byzantine fort, it was reconstructed in the 13 century after the earthquake of 1222. It was dismantled by the Venetians in 1570 and then fortified by the Ottomans when they captured the island. The castle has served as fortress, prison, and warehouse throughout it’s long history guarding Paphos harbor, but today stands as a listed landmark.

We didn’t go inside while we were in Paphos, but we did take a few pictures of it. It is a little bit on the small side, but apparently well worth the visit. It costs 2.50 Euro to enter (at the time we were strapped for cash and were more interested in the Archaeological Site).

If you’re interested in visiting, the hours are:

Winter (Nov 1 – March 31): 8:00am – 5:00pm

Spring (April 1 – May 31): 8:00am – 6:00pm

Summer (June 1 – Aug 31): 8:00am – 7:30pm

Autumn ( Sep 1 – Oct 31): 8:00am – 6:00pm

Archaelogical Site Paphos

This was one of our favorite things that we did while on Cyprus. I chose to do this on my birthday after we dropped off the homeowners of our housesit at Paphos Airport. The Archaeological Site Paphos is just a few hundred meters north of Paphos Castle along the waterfront.

Ruins At Paphos

The UNESCO World Heritage Site is a vast complex of monuments. Here we found beautiful and well-preserved mosaics in the House of Dionysus – the god of wine.

Mosaics At Paphos
Mosaics At Paphos

The house of Thyseus, named after a mosaic showing the Greek hero Thyseus fighting the Minotaur.

Mosaics At Paphos

The House of Aion and the House of Orpheus also contain great mosaics.

Mosaics At Paphos

The Roman Odeon stands as a well preserved amphitheater and is still used during the summer for musical and theater performances. The Hellenistic theater, a theater cut into the rock is also still used to this day.

Archaeological Site Paphos Amplitheatre

As well there are the remains of an Agora dating to the 2nd Century BCE and the Asklipion, a temple that served as a hospital named after the god of medicine.

Paphos Ruins
Archaeological Site Paphos

If you’re interested in visiting, it costs 4.50 Euro and the hours are:

Winter (Nov 1 – March 31): 8:00am – 5:00pm

Spring (April 1 – May 31): 8:00am – 6:00pm

Summer (June 1 – Aug 31): 8:00am – 7:30pm

Autumn ( Sep 1 – Oct 31): 8:00am – 6:00pm

Be sure to bring some water, it gets hot!

Tombs Of The Kings

Tomb Of The Kings

Another one of our favorites, and an awesome UNESCO site to check out located about 4km north of the archaeological site is the Tombs of The Kings. The tombs themselves are not actually of kings, but rather belonged to the rich aristocrats of the 4th century BCE through to the 3rd century CE.

Briana In A Tomb
Tombs Of The Kings

The tombs are carved and cut into the native rock. Some are more simplistic while others contain Doric columns and frescoed walls. All contain alcoves in which the dead were placed (though none now remain.)

Tomb Of The Kings
Tomb Of The Kings
Tomb Of The Kings

The site is made up of 7 tombs spread out over a large area. Tomb 3 is the largest and most impressive of the tombs.

Tomb Of The Kings
Tomb Of The Kings

We enjoyed climbing about through the stone caved ruins and trekking through the rough desert landscape.

Tomb Of The Kings
Tombs Of The Kings
Tombs Of The Kings
Tombs Of The Kings Stairs
Tombs Of The Kings
Briana At Tombs Of The Kings

Entry is 2.50 Euro and it’s hours are: 8:30am – 7:30pm year round.

Ayia Kryiaki Chrysopolitissa

Church

The Panagia Chrysopolitissa church was built in the 13th century over the ruins of the largest Byzantine basilica on Cyprus. The church was originally 7 aisled, but due to damage throughout the years has been reduced and rebuilt into a 5 aisled church.

Church Ruins
Church Ruins

The church still operates today, but also serves as a historical site. Mosaics remain on display and can be viewed from the cat-walks that surround the standing building.

Church Ruin Mosaics

As well, you can view St. Paul’s Pillar, whether tradition states that Paul was flogged before the Roman Governor Sergius Paulus was converted to Christianity.

St Paul's Pillar

The interior of the present standing church can also be visited. The church is smaller, but well decorated and contains many paintings.

Inside The Church
Brotherly Love
Panagia Theoskepasti 
This is another church, just a little down the road from Pangia Chrysopolitissa. We weren’t able to visit it, but it is still operating and can be visited during service. The church was built in the 10th century, and is today listed as a part of the greater Paphos UNESCO World Heritage Site. The original church was destroyed, unfortunately, but was rebuilt upon it’s foundations in 1923.
Church of Panagia Theoskepasti

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Hala Sultan Teke