Prague. August 2018.

Prague was a pleasant surprise. It’s a cute and romantic city, with some art deco details around. The language, Czech, is also a lovely language to hear and read with the upward inflections.

Here are some photos from the trip in Prague!

Prague Castle panoramas:

Museum of Communism:

Alfons Mucha exhibition:

Exhibition outdoors:

Beautiful buildings all around:

A park near Legorova overlooking the city, with the Prague Castle in the distance:

Another cute cafe with other travelers, but I was surrounded by bees..

Having a ginger tea to some very cute settings:

For many reasons, Prague was a special trip for me and it was the final large trip before settling into life in Paris.

Pompeii – From Vine Fields to Arenas

This post is just a brief follow up to:

While there are buildings, templates and interiors that are interesting, the Pompeii ruins also had interesting fields and large-scale outdoor arenas that can be explored.

There are three ampitheatres – Teatro Piccolo, Teatre Grande (interior pictured) and Anfiteatro (pictured external).

Teatro Grande

You can enter these and also explore the outside perimeters.

Near Anfiteatro (the produced is name Villa dei Misteri) are some interesting vineyards. This is where the grapes are planted in the same position on the same soil, are grown using identical techniques in AD 79. These are all based on the studies from the Applied Researches Laboratory. How did they find the locations? It was through the original plaster casts of the ancient roots that were found.

Casa del Giardino di Ercole vineyards:

Casa del Giardino di Ercole vineyards

Orto dei Fuggiaschi vineyard:

Orto dei Fuggiaschi vineyard

It was quiet an experience running into the vineyards after the heat from the ruins and also reading about the history of its cultivation.

Pompeii Highlights – Buildings, Temples and Interiors.

This post is a follow up to my tips and advice post for visiting Pompeii  if you are a first-time visitor.

If you have read that post, or if you want to see the highlights, please read on!

I did not do a lot of reading about Pompeii before the visit and decided to purchase a guide book. After entering the site, and maybe a minute or two walk, is a visitor centre with indoor exhibitions and a bookshop.

If I were to do the trip again, I would opt to get a guide instead, but the guide would need to be a historian. Or, hire an audio guide. It is very difficult to make sense of what is in front of you as there is very little written guides available.

However, while photographing these, I would photograph the name of the building or region so that I can later look back on where I have been.

I am not a historian and I used both Google search and my photographs of the building names and descriptions for reference. Thank you for reading and I hope that you enjoy this post!

Pompeii Highlights

In terms of regions, I went via an anti-clockwise direction starting from where the public administration buildings are on Regio VII, like below:

Forum, Pompeii.

And from there, I went around the corners, through the inner layout (which was primarily residences, aristocratic residencies, and commercial districts) before exiting again through the administrative and religious buildings.

There are some very special areas in Pompeii, so if your time is a bit short you may want to make a note of these areas so that you can see them.

Casa del Fauno or House of the Faun features a tranquil green courtyard, statue of a dancing faun and possibly an early example of the square grid design on the floors.

Palestra Dei Luvenes contains a mosaic on the floor that is decorated with mosaic of physical fight between two athletes and interesting paintings within the interior.

Painting inside Palestra dei Luvenes

Casa del Cinghiale has a mosaic featuring a wild boar:

Tempo di Iside still looks very ethereal thousands of years later:

House of the Cryptoporticus, owned by a wealthy owner.

The villa also had a garden on one of the lower level roof terrace:

They expressed their tastes through the sumptuous baths and the art and designs adorning these from the dainty bird designs to something a bit more daring:

Casa dell’Efebo contains some nicely preserved illustrations below:

Casa e Thermopolium di Vetutius Placidus 

House of the Orchard was interesting as it had motifs featured on a dark background and was a merge of the Greek cult with the Egyptian. A similar design can be found in the Villa dei Misteri in this post.

Finishing off Pompeii

I finished the site by going through Region VI.  This area is a bit rough – with the ruins being overgrown with nature but was among the area first hit. There is not a lot of special notes in this area and not many visitors.

Exploring Pompeii, Italy – tips and advice for first-time visitors.

Region VI street with Mt Vesuvius in the background.

Pompeii was a definite highlight for me.  I decided to pay a small premium and buy my tickets online the day before. It still required lining up, but my wait was only for 10 minutes at around 9.20am compared to much longer lines for those who did not purchase in advance.

Advice visiting Pompeii in summertime

Some things I recommend that you do based on the trip to Pompeii mid August:

  • If you have the time, don’t do the set tours. These only cover a small portion and your entry fees are not covered.
  • It is worth the premium online to buy your tickets at another provider. You still need to wait in line to pick up the ticket but the line will be shorter.
  • Have comfortable shoes, comfortables clothes, sunscreen, hat, sunglasses. Sunglasses are a must since the sun reflect off the stones.
  • Go early, like from 9am. Far less crowds (especially the big tourist crowds). This means some good photo opportunities at places like the Basilica, the Forum, Tempio di Giove and more without much tourist interference like below.
  • Statue of a centaur at the Forum in Pompeii.
  • I lasted until 1.30pm, then took a 1.5 hour break before taking a 3pm bus to Mt Vesuvius. You can buy your bus tickets at the entrance to Pompeii near the train station and buy the entrance tickets from the private bus.
  • It may be worth bringing something light for lunch instead of waiting at the kiosk/restaurants. There was a restaurant up a hill but it was still closed during my visit. There are water fountains around the site to replenish your water bottle.
  • For cheaper food and less crowds, there is a restaurant that is to your left after leaving the trains, by the parking entrance and away from the groups of restaurant.

I walk through Via delle Tombe (through the Necropoli di Porta Ercolano) and Villa dei Misteri which had some very interesting internal works below like the Egyptian/hieroglyphics inspired motifs:

Heiroglyphic inspired motifs at the Villa dei Misteri, Pompeii.

The exit requires you to walk through a long ‘driveway’ all the way back to the train station.  Not a lot of people went through here though, and I suspect that much of the large groups had been either tourists, or people left via the main entrance/exit points.

Continue reading…

Pompeii Highlights – Buildings, Temples and Interiors.

Bosnia-Herzegovina. City of Mostar and Kravica Waterfalls. August.

From Dubrovnik, I made a day trip on my final full day in Croatia to the country of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Since I did not have much time for mistakes and this involves a number of passport checkpoints, I decided to go with a tour.

It was only the previous week when temperatures peaked at around 40C, but in Mostar I mainly did a walk, a lunch at a rooftop cafe and then a dessert near one of the rivers. I did not swim at Kravica Waterfalls (no bathers, though I did spend much of the holidays debating if I should buy a new one), mainly sat near the edges.

Towards Mostar and back to Dubrovnik, the tour guide gave a LOT of information about history, culture, politics, society and more that I would not otherwise have gleaned, so it was a great experience overall.

City of Mostar

Mostar is quiet known due to its role in the war in Yugoslavia but it has some interesting cultural underpinnings to it. Unfortunately the tour guide we had focused on the war and seemed to not take his role seriously (making jokes, etc). I overheard another guide talking in greater depth and detail, but perhaps the quality that the other one is offering is higher due to a higher price.

Kravica Waterfalls

While I was sitting down, I noticed or heard a group of three woman humming along in what seemed to be some sort of prayer.

Zagreb, Croatia. August

Some photos around Zagreb:

The Westin Zagreb has an interesting promo with New Balance where you can rent out shoes and a gym outfit, which worked out quiet well. It’s given to you by housekeeping and you leave the clothes when you check out.

The gym they have is part of another complex with some nice machines. It’s a big deal if you are into keeping fit…

The new city itself is quiet small and very accessible via the tram network. There is also the village above the city which can be accessed via furnicular or you can walk up/down the large hill.

I took business class Croatian Airlines on the way to Prague!

Valamar Hotels, Dubrovnik, Croatia. August.

We stayed at Valamar Lacroma Hotel, which has a really great breakfast buffet, great views, great gym and so on.  There is access to a few beaches nearby as well as restaurants which are a short walk away.  Dubrovnik old city is a bus or taxi ride away. I recommend staying here! See below for some wonderful views during the night and day from the hotel.

Photo from the Valamar Presidential beach and it was really hot that day. The necklace that I am wearing is actually gold colored but here it appears silver:


Here’s the sunset overlooking the islands of Koločep and Otočić Daksa:

But what about Dubrovnik Old City?

On my first night, while waiting for family, I had a meal overlooking the castle.

We also had a seafood in the old city near the bay, but you would be looking at quiet a price for it. I think it was a couple of hundred euros, almost.

I did not really do a lot of tourist things at the Old City, walked along the perimeter and in the streets during the evening. I was mainly relaxing around Valamar as I wasn’t too keen on the sunshine and crowds.

The coastline around this area is absolutely amazing. Most of it in Croatia but there is a part of Herzegovina that touches the Adriatic Sea, around Neum, otherwise much of Bosnia-Herzegovina is landlocked and not touching the sea due to Croatia.

My day trip in Bosnia-Herzegovina on my last day will be covered in another post.