Discover Venice for a steal! – Part 1

Venice is one of the most famous cities of this planet, although it is tiny compared with many metropolitans all over the world which are equally famous. The fame is based on the special character of this city, which is built into the Mediterranean Sea and kind of an open air museum itself…

The capital of romance and love is – with no doubt – Venice in Italy. You will have this feeling of visiting & living in a big open air museum nowhere else and the special character of the water streets is unique as well, at least in Europe and within a city that has an age, historic charme and dimensions like Venice. There are many copies of this city, mostly in the US e.g. with Venice of Los Angeles – and in themeparks all over the worlds.

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I don’t want to focus on facts and figures with this entry, for all of that you have the linked Wiki above and probably good traveler guides anyways. What I want to deliver here are some impressions and since I traveled there already two times (and certainly not the last time), insider knowledge for your convenience, how you can make it there and live there, even with a very small budget – in the historic center, on the island of Venezia and not on the mainland.

  • Your Trip: Plan your trip in advance and don’t haste through this city. Plan at least three to four days, directly on the island. Don’t consider a stay on the mainland, it’s not even cheaper, if you book the hotel about a month in advance.

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  • When to go: Summer is fine of course, but Venice is overrun by tourists and in between July and September is main vacation time in Italy and the city is even more frequented. Summer can be nasty in Venice, since the city sometimes stinks when it is warm and you will not be able to enjoy your stay, when you have to fight for space on all main sights. I prefer to go in late Autumn and Winter. End of October to mid of January is a good time, although it is not really warm. So far the weather was always appreciable. Rain can occur, but you will have sun as well. I have never visited Venice for the Carnival, but if you plan to do that, book about one year in advance!
  • Getting there: If you arrive by ferry or train, everything is good – you can’t take a motorized vehicle onto the island! If you have a rental car within Italy, make it a one-way and return it in Venezia. If you have an own car or a rental you plan to use after your stay as well, park it on the mainland! The pricing differs drastically and it’s possible that you pay up to 30 EUR a day for public parking if you choose to park directly at the entrance of the historic city. This is very convenient and if you can afford it, you should do it. The options on the mainland are by far cheaper and if you choose the right hub, it costs about 5 – 10 EUR a day! Before you get off your vehicle make sure you have your Vaporetto pass ready to take the bus into the historic city, directly from the parking site. It is by far the most convenient way. You can buy the ticket until 7:00 PM (weekdays) in Mestre in Via Giuseppe Verdi 14, (List of ticket offices) upon your arrival and if you are under 27 the pass costs less – show your ID to prove the age!

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  • Staying in Venice: You certainly have plentiful options via AirBNB but they are not necessarily cheaper than your average B&B which you can find offered at all common websites like Booking or tripadvisor. It’s up to you what you choose. Expect daily costs to be around 20 EUR per person in winter with the option to cook your food at home. I stayed once in Mestre, the first time I visited Venice and I would never do that again! Last time we stayed in the B&B Venice Hazel and I can recommend it for the price, cleanliness and proximity to all main sights.
  • Getting around in Venice: Many ‘Piazzas’ are touristic, some aren’t. As recommended get the Vaporetto pass – a single ride costs you at least 6 EUR. A Vaporetto is the big water bus, for up to 100 people. It’s not as romantic as the little gondola, but a ride with the gondola costs you 80 – 100 EUR for one hour and for two people. Something you’d do when you want to propose or you have sufficient funds – nothing for the traveler on a budget. The Vaporetto helps you to return to your area of choice – and to get away from there I recommend to walk the city and discover it.

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  • Eating out-house & Groceries: The less tourists you see, the better is the food. The price range is from up to 5 EUR for a coffee (Piazza San Marco) to 0,90 EUR everywhere in the places where the locals go. Same is for Pizza which can cost you 5 EUR in the area of the University – or triple the price in the touristic areas while mostly worse in comparison. Get a feeling for yourself while you discover it. I prefer the food of Tuscany and Blogna by far, when it comes up to Italy but you can find really good food in Venice as well, you just have to have a closer look. For aperitivos I can highly recommend the area close to Ponte di Rialto, around the Rialto market place – which is lively at daytime and where you can buy great ingredients for your home cooking. The other groceries can be bought much cheaper at one of the few Coop supermarkets.

In Part 2 I will tell you a bit about the sights and options you have in regard to the sightseeing and about the tickets – because sightseeing is expensive as hell if you don’t do it properly, as is going to the toilet. I never do the average sightseeing when I am there, although it would probably be worth it. I choose to just enjoy the city itself as a great museum. On the other hand, there are plentiful options one should discover… With those first infos you will get there and around and you can easily stay a week for not more than 500 – 600 EUR for two persons if you do it right, most of the food included. Stay tuned. I will bring up the next entry for Venice in about two weeks and it will include many more impressions of the city. One last advice: Make sure you don’t act like a touristic bum while you are there, the Venezians hate it and if you see the masses of tourists you know why!

Vienna Calling!

Vienna is one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, the capital of Austria, a cultural metropolis and the definition of coffee house culture. Whenever you are to central Europe make sure to hit it. The summertime is certainly the time of the year to do so!

It was already my third time, that I visited Vienna, one of the most beautiful cities Europe has to offer. The old houses from the times before WWII shine, as the many outstanding sights. To mention some facts here:

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  • It has about 1.8 Million inhabitants and is therefore under the Top 5 (Rank 3 or 4, together with Munich) cities with German as main language, together with Berlin, Hamburg, Munich and Cologne.
  • It is by far the biggest city and capital of Austria and has the most inhabitants of all Austrian states, more than 20%.
  • The Opernball of Vienna is an world famous event where the global high society and many wannabes mix up.
  • Vienna has an outstanding Coffee House culture and is famous for the rich and heavy bakery. You have to try a Wiener Melange, when you visit the city!
  • The Prater is nothing special anymore in regard to the thrill of the offered rides – nowadays modern theme parks got much more to offer – BUT it is classy and the observation wheel is probably the only one, where you can enjoy your candle light dinner, just with the person you love – while cruising some rounds with remarkable views over the city. There are combo tickets for many different attractions and if you have some more time, you save a decent amount of cash if you buy them in advance – like in other big cities as London or New York.
  • The most important musician of the new time, who is dead already – RIP – is Falco. He has this typical Viennese accent and is one of the most famous artists of all times, singing in German language.

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Enough said, you will find the rest in the article I linked up, at least the figures and facts. I want to go into detail in regard to special recommendations for you. First of all you should park your car, if you come by car, and use the public transportation, which is efficient and reliable, often faster and you don’t have the risk to get a ticket. This is all to easy because in many areas there are parking zones, where you can just buy the parking ticket on a Trafic (tobacco store) during daytime.

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Try to hit the free of charge Donauinsel Fest (German) in summer time, when you love Rock Music and Electro – it will be from 26th to 28th June in 2015. I attended this event once and it was awesome, totally free of charge and a special feeling to thrive and party along this island between Vienna and New Vienna City (Wiener Neustadt).

As two Coffee House recommendations I want to introduce my favorite Viennese Cafe to you, the Cafe Prückel, which is not as posh as the Sacher or the Cafe Central in the 1st district. It has this certain charme and the cake and coffee is outstanding. But for the appearance and location in the heart of the city the Cafe Central is moderately priced and beautiful and the cake is delicious as well. That’s why I’d say, if you can just make one and have a very limited time, plus look for THE stereotype, do this one as a sight and enjoy your piece of cake. If you are in Vienna for longer or like to get to see, what it’s all about in the normal life of the Viennese, you should go to my favorited Cafe Prückel.

What else is enjoyable in this city… If you like markets, the Naschmarkt for sure. I love it! You get many different oriental ingredients, fresh fish and meat in very good quality (e.g. when you don’t have the METRO card), specialties of Austria and the normal, crappy souvenir stuff – but you don’t need to buy it, right? Check this market out, the Kebap there is actually really good, which is a predicate if a Berliner says that… 🙂

To finalize this entry I want to give you another source, I use to check regularly before I start into a big city. – Unlike.net – They have plentiful information on places that are a little off the beaten track and therefore I love them! I recommend the nightlife section as well, since I haven’t tried many locations and after the sightseeing and enjoyment I am barely in the mood to party in the nights.

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My picks for you would be some outstanding buildings and going places. And as always, when I visit a big city, I totally recommend to walk it, as much as possible to see as much as possible!

  • Stephans Dom (directions)
  • The Donau Channel for urban graffiti culture and in summer to just hang out
  • The whole 1st district with…
  • The Austrian Parliament 
  • Burggarten and Albertina – the Cafe Sacher is here as well – and the huge building is the National Library 
  • Besides is the Museumsquartier with plenty different museums
  • The Viennese Rathaus and the space in front with the Burgtheater
  • And there you have the Volksgarten with the Hofburg, both top locations to stroll in the early evening, enjoying the lighting and beauty
  • The little streets around Judenplatz
  • Last but not least the Wiener Staatsoper, the place where the Opernball takes place…

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There are many more things to see, best you walk all along those areas and get yourself an overview. If you click on the respective sights you can access the locations via Google Maps, a convenient way to safe those locations to your phone and make the map accessible offline – the way I do it when I am somewhere else. Have fun exploring Vienna and if you have a little more time, you can always visit the Donauturm, to have an unforgettable view over the whole city area and countryside that surrounds the city.

Eastcoast Roadtrip 2013 – Boston Arriving & Cambridge

The beginning of my stay in Boston and Cambridge is focussed on Cambridge and the best known Universities on planet Earth. I discover the campus, learn to differentiate between MIT and Harvard people and discover a stunning city in between.

Leaving Cape Cod is a tad sad. It’s beautiful there and the last day was vacation at its best and my hosting family was very nice. On my way to Boston I stop at the Mayflower memorial in Plymouth. It showcases the rebuilt Mayflower II of the first pilgrims who came to young America back in the day. At 1 PM I reach my Airbnb in Boston

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This is the rebuilt Mayflower II, a memorial for the first pilgrims who reached America. You find it in Plymouth, between Cape Cod and Boston.

I am a bit shocked in the first moment of my arrival. I will stay in Roxbury and the area looks a bit rundown, like in a hood. There are lots of people hanging around on the street. My host is not there, still at work. I follow her directions and claim the key out of a little lockbox, which lies on the porch. I need to sleep, am totally worn out, the jetlag is stronger than the days before. Want to be fit, when I discover the campus of the big two, MIT and Harvard in Cambridge. That is the plan for the afternoon. 

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In the afternoon I start with Cambridge and get an overview over both Campi, starting in Harvard. My plan to meet up with a Professor from MIT manifests, I want to do it the next day, since it is already late. So I just continue to discover the campus and visit the Technics Museum of MIT, which is really cool! Sun already sets, when I come out and the mood over Cambridge is great and the view to Boston stunning!

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I have to say, from the people I met, I liked the guys from MIT much more, nerds like you and me. The personell of Harvard is kind of arrogant, as some of the visitors have been at as well. I ask myself “Why?” – Shouldn’t people on the top of society be glad for their status and be grateful and polite? Especially the brats, who get this once in a lifetime opportunity by their dad, who they probably rarely see, because otherwise they would have better manners. If I compare both elitist factories, I prefer MIT for sure.

At night I speak to my host, she tells me I don’t have to be worried, the crime rate of Boston is really low because everyone in this city receives healthcare, even if people can’t afford it and nobody is just left behind to suffer poverty. And I can confirm that as far as I can walk around without any incidents – you get used to it very fast. My dinner is pasta and afterwards I continue the sightseeing and head into the touristic parts of Boston, but the pictures of Boston will be showcased in another entry, this one is focussed on Cambridge in regard to the photography.

At late night, around 10 PM, I hit the restaurant & jazz lounge The Beehive – I enjoy live music, a great blue cheese burger and awesome IPA beer. A really great experience to get enjoyable American beer!

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The dark lounge of ‘The Beehive’ is cosy, food is great, beer good and the live music really cool. Thank you for this recommendation from Toronto, Oli!

This is the first time, as far as I can remember, that the beer was actually good – I remember my times in Florida of 2008, where I never appreciated the offered beer on liquor stores. Scenic and en vogue South End really seems to be the place to be in Boston! And those are some impressions of my way home, since the Metro and Bus does not ride too long anymore, I have to walk home about 45 min…

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The next day starts again in Cambridge. I have a good overview how to get there – by Metro – and what to do. I want to see a Professor of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at the MIT, but sadly she is on travels and a second Professor I had on my list, as well. But the Koch Institute of Cancer Research is an impressive building. Should I ever remain in Science, I’d be honored to work there. 

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Inside worlds famous Koch Institute at MIT
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The Koch Institute of Cancer Research, MIT

After this attempt – hey it worked great at Yale University – I take a walk over the campus of Harvard and decide to continue from the main campus to Harvard Medical School in the late afternoon.

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Inside Harvard’s holy halls
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Inside the Institute of Chemistry of Harvard University

The way to Harvard Medical School is interesting, since I go back to Boston by Metro, followed by tram I see a lot – the campus of HMS is not in Cambridge but in Boston. I would need more time in Boston as it seems… I can’t access the main building of the Medical School, stroll around a little more and by surprise run into the Pharmacy school. What an incident! I take a look around there as well, then I return home to plan the next tours, potential interviews and what to do at night…

Eastcoast Roadtrip 2013 – The arrival to New Haven

Throwback to the USA and Canada Roadtrip 2013: The first part of the trip from Innsbruck, over Frankfurt / Main to New York City and the first roadtrip to New Haven is tough – if you sum up the hours and the distance made. My first stop is the worldwide known Yale University.

28.09.2013 IBK (Austria), Late afternoon. My French tenants arrive in my apartment, I receive cash – not the desired transaction to my account. I finish to clean the apartment last minute. I bring my car to the University with all the luggage, from there I take a cab to the trainstation.

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Chaos, luggage and maps for the different sections of the trip

When the train reaches Munich, it gets really overcrowded with smelly and wasted Oktoberfest visitors, one vomits into the train as if there would not be any tomorrow, really awesome! In the middle of the night I reach Frankfurt, meet old friends of the family, who I haven’t seen for ages. At their home, where I stay for this night, I am pampered with delicious carrot soup, Äpplvoi (this is an alcoholic beverage made of apples) and we sit together quite some time on their balcony. Afterwards the deepest sleep you could ever imagine…

Servus USA, servus NYC, here I come!

29.09.2013 Frankfurt (Germany), In the morning everything works in accordance to plan, just the transaction of my cash to my account won’t work, not even to my German account. My friends bring me to the airport, everything is routine. I buy a bottle of Wisky, The Dalmore Valour – it’s quite mild but very enjoyable. Flying with Delta Airlines is really comfortable. The flight is great and the service outstanding – basically no wish remains unfulfilled.

Just landed in New York City JFK a little overdose of impressions overcomes me. Sooo many people, everywhere! And where can I claim my prebooked rental? I get the directions, take the shuttle train to Federal District Circle, take another shuttle and claim my rental at 6:15 PM. Not really a small car – that was ordered (that’s great!) – I get a VW Jetta with quite some horses. Many thanks to Lisa, who booked everything from Austria, everything perfect! A tad scary is the situation when I claim my rental and the nice bro behind the counter asks me, if I would not live in Oxford Manor, Archer Rd, Gainesville, Florida anymore – I lived there in 2008 and returned to Europe for five consecutive years without being in the USA. Big Brother is watching you!

Somehow I enter a status of trance now. The highway flies by, the lights of the cars are passing by like in a dream. It’s still a good piece of way from NYC to Westhaven in Connecticut (CT) and at 9:00 PM E.T. I finally reach my AirBNB. Short brake then I make my way to Yale Campus, where I meet Rolli, a friend and colleague of mine from the Chemistry department of the University of Innsbruck. We go to the bar BAR and to my surprise it has really good pizza and what surprises me even more… On the restrooms hangs a picture of … well see for yourself – uncovered boobs.

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Uncovered boobs in the USA, I wonder to find that in a bar close to Yale Campus.

Did not expect something like that at all. But you never stop learning, I mean as European you are not bothered by that. The interior with those cow skins reminds me a little bit of a Tyrolean hut. Another unexpected finding. Nice. I’m very satisfied, everything worked fine and yet in accordance to my bucketlist.

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Those cow skins remind me of the huts of Tyrol

In the meanwhile it’s 5:00 AM on 30.09.203 in Westhaven. I already slept short and good, but I will have trouble to fall asleep again, since it’s already 11:00 AM in Europe. Well, a sip from the Wisky and it might work. Good night America, good morning Europe.

Latin America picture ToDo-list

This is my “ToDo-List” for Central and South America. Covered are 19 countries so far, but I am open to your suggestions! The pictures I used are all from artists of the twenty20 community and I have to thank you guys at this point for taking such great pictures! Please feel free to leave suggestions for me, what I should not miss out when I travel Latin America the next time.

Pictures tell stories better than a thousand words. This is an old wisdom and it’s actually true. You might have read my report about my relatively short travel to Panamá, Costa Rica and Nicaragua. For me this was the first contact to this beautiful and magic piece of land on our planet and it is not the last time, that I have been there, promised. Since pictures express much more, than text ever could, when it comes up to the description of the beauty of places, people, nature and everything else but the lyric itself, I started to create and build up a Twenty20 Collection. In this gallery I collect pictures I like and worship, and included are pictures of 19 countries so far, here presented from North to South.

Central America

Cancún in Mexico, by @soniamchopra
Somewhere in Guatemala, by @s_cavazos
Belize and the Maya temples, by @_melche
US Embassy in Honduras, by @cellalaaa
Surfing the Pacific in El Salvador, by @gerardoch10
Vulcano Concepción on Isla de Ometepe in Nicaragua, by @benicoma
The cloud rainforest Costa Rica’s mountains, by @benicoma
The Islands of San Blas in Panamá, by @benicoma

 

South America

Medellín in Colombia, by @vcostaphoto
Morrocoy in Venezuela, by @erickmendez9
The highlands of Ecuador, by @puapv
Machu Picchu in Peru, by @corrine_t
The death road in Bolivia, by @birgitry
Jesus statue over Rio de Janeiro, by @nanohooligan
Isla Fernando de Noronha of Brazil, by @joneliabe
Somewhere in Paraguay, by @jcibils
Surfing the beaches of Uruguay, by @marcbaechtold
The Iguazu falls of Argentina, by @kauaitraveler
Chilenian part Patagonia, by @birgitry

 

People

A vendor in Bolivia’s capital La Paz, by @raulbarnoir
The lovely people of Costa Rica celebrating their football team in the World Cup. The contribution goes to my friends in Costa Rica!
A mayan child bathing in a creek, by @andrewqholzschuh
Tango in the streets of Buenos Aires, by @mackeykatrina
Salsa and Bachata, by @hurpatty
Mother and child in Mexico, by @whiteraslion
Carneval Samba in Brazil, by @jealston
Guna Yala
The Guna Yala and me on San Blas in Panamá, by @benicoma

 

This collection features great pictures from all over Latin America, from diverse artists and is something like a ToDo list for me, when I travel to this region the next time. I will need plenty of time to do that of course, since there are already 19 countries included and by far not everything worthwhile to see…

What I have to do:

  • Surfing all along the Pacific coast, from Baja California in Mexico down to Chile, wherever I come by
  • Visit the Maya tribes of the Mexican desert for their cult, and experiencing it
  • Visit the plantations for cacao and coffee in different countries
  • Visit the places where medical plants are cultured in a fair trade principal
  • Visit the Maya Temples of Mexico and Belize
  • Exploring the Amazonas of Brazil and Bolivia
  • Sail to Cartagena via San Blas in Panamá
  • Dance Tango Argentino in Buenos Aires
  • Dance lots of Salsa
  • Snorkel and Dive in Central America and Venezuela
  • Visit the Carneval in Rio de Janeiro
  • Go diving on Coiba Island of Panamá and on Isla Fernando de Noronha of Brazil
  • Go snowboarding and hiking in Patagonia
  • Finish Pacific Coastal Highway 1 – called the Panamericana in Latin America

When you are on Twenty20 yourself, have pictures of those regions which might fit in and you are willing to get them featured in the Collection, please comment under them with the hashtag @benicoma and I will consider to take them in as well. And when you read this blog entry and want to share great places to visit, please leave a comment, it is highly appreciated!