Plovdiv: the ancient city of Bulgaria

Cities – and buildings – with millennia of history have a given something.

That is why I haven’t been to the US yet. There everything is a couple of hundred years old, at best. Monuments are made to look old instead of being old. Built with modern techniques instead of inventing techniques to make them. Of course, I am spoiled about this topic it because I am from Alcalá de Henares, which was already a city at the time of Rome.

And Plovdiv, the city I went to visit a month ago, is of this kind of cities. It is one of the oldest cities in Europe and was for a time called Philippopolis, after King Philip of Macedonia, the father of Alexander the Great, who conquered it from the Thracians.

Roman theatre of Plovdiv.
Ancient Theatre of Plovdiv: 2000 years looking right back at you.

I wanted to visit Bulgaria because it was an EU country (which facilitates everything so much) and because this city with millennia of life I had not visited it yet. In addition, it is the European Capital of Culture of this 2019, so there we went.

Plovdiv: how to get there from Sofia

There are several ways to get to the city. Plovdiv has an airport, but unless you want to go through Tel Aviv or London first, you will not be able to travel directly.

It is best to go by bus or train from Sofia. We went by bus, although both stations are next to each other (you arrive to the stations by Metro, at the “Central train station” stop. Map).

Plovdiv is European City of Culture 2019
European City of Culture 2019

There are regular buses every hour, as well as trains, so it shouldn’t be a problem to go to Plovdiv without buying the ticket in advance, as we did. The locals recommended the bus because it has air conditioning, although if you do so is a good idea to have a cardigan or scarf with you, as it gets very cold.

Plovdiv: where to stay?

Plovdiv is the second biggest city of Bulgaria, with 350,000 inhabitants. This city, built between the 7 hills, is therefore quite large. To stay in a good place, the best is to stay downtown or just outside the center, to be able to go everywhere walking. If you stay north of the river it will be more complicated to move.

Within the red box are the recommended areas. If you still do not have AirBnB, if you use this link they give you up to € 25 discount on your first reservation. We stayed in the southeast corner of the square, just enough far from the hustle and bustle of the center, but not too much, and near the bus station.

How to get around and what to do in Plovdiv?

Before going there we send a message to the city officials, to ask this very question. As we were just a stone’s throw from the center, we could do it quietly on foot, so at least the “how to get around” part was already solved.

They provided us with a couple of Plovdiv City Card (web, Instagram) to get to know the city and it was fantastic.

The card includes more than 10 free museums, including the ancient theater, built more than 2000 years ago by the Romans, with a capacity for 3500 nowadays, but around 7000 at its height. It also has discounts on stores, restaurants, and more.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B0eC7aUJ7wy/

If you want to buy yours with time from your smartphone, this is the place.

In the next post we tell you what we did in Plovdiv during the two days we were there, and what we can recommend you what we did.

Did you know Plovdiv? What do you think about the topic of new cities VS millenary cities?



Budapest: where to stay, eat and go out

After the previous post, where we told you how we got to Budapest and we recommend you the Budapest Card to move around the city and more, in this post we will give you some practical information about Budapest: where to stay, eat and go out.

The post will be a mixture of what we did and recommendations of a Hungarian born and raised in Budapest (a friend and a former co-worker who knows the city like the palm of his hand).

A Budapest Street
Through the streets of Budapest

Budapest: where to stay

Before going to Budapest we asked for recommendations and our friend told us that districts 7, 5 or 8 are great for AirBnB, the option we chose to stay. If you are looking for a place to sleep in Budapest, if you don’t have an AirBnB account yet and it seems like a good option to you, I leave you here my link. With it you can get € 25 discount on your first stay.

In the end we opted for a place to stay in the XIII district (in the Pest side of the city), since it was super close to the Parliament – perhaps the most emblematic building in Budapest – and next to one of the bridges that leads to Buda (the area where the Buda Castle and Fisherman’s Bastion are located), the most monumental side of the the city.

Buda and Pest, the two sides of the city

Where (and what) to eat, and restaurants

If you want to try Hungarian cuisine, the most typical is the Lángos. They are some fried bread cakes that are sour cream, the ingredients you want, and a mountain of striped cheese that makes them delicious. They are made at the moment, so the bread dough is still hot. Fantastic!

The best place to have them is on the second floor of the market hall. This is the address (Vámház krt. 1-3 street. Map). And be careful! They close early in the day. Much better to go there for lunch than for dinner.

A good Hungarian restaurant we visited – and which also came recommended – was the Vak Varjú (map). It is usually full (although there are several around the city), so it is better to go a bit earlier or after regular lunch hours if you want to find a table, or try to book (we went without a reservation). The duck liver was great, and although cherry / strawberry wine is one of their specialties, we opted for the local beers.

I also liked the touch of the men’s bathroom: a boxing bag, along with the iconic image of Ali VS Liston. Wash your hands before, please 😉

Of course, check out the places that will give you a discount with the Budapest Card, to get the best out of it.

In general, it seemed to me that the restaurants in Budapest that we went to had good portions and weren’t particularly pricey. We don’t mention all places we ate, since many were not specialized in Hungarian food per se.

For dessert, the most Hungarian things are the “retés“, which are a kind of Hungarian Strudel (they are also very fond of the schnitzel, by the way. A lot of Austrian influence, from the Austro-Hungarian empire). The Kremés are also very tasty.

Where to have a drink and go out

In the center of Pest (Buda is more residential and monumental), to the southeast of the Basilica of St. Stephen, there is an area of ​​interconnected building patios that is full of bars and very good atmosphere in the afternoon for having dinner or for a drink .

It is the Gozsdu Courtyard and you can find it here on the map. If you fancy going all out in that area, in the Kolor bar (which also has a dance floor) there are parties at night.

Gozsdu courtyard
The Gozsdu courtyard
Gozsdu in Budapest
Restaurants in the Gozsdu Courtyard

Right next to Gozsdu Coutyard you also have the Kazinczy Street, which is also full of bars. Some cool bars out there are the Szimpla Kert or the Instant.

Szimpla Kert in Budapest
The Szimpla Kert bar.

If you still have energy to go out, these are the discos recommended by the locals:

  • Ötkert
  • Doboz
  • Trafiq
  • Corvinteto (with a great view of the city)
  • Úrimuri
  • Morrison’s 2. A bit mainstream but also fun.

Ah! And the drink to have is the Pálinka: a kind of Hungarian grappa and “official” drink of the country. The best brand is Rézangyal, although there are many different ones. There are flavored Pálinkas as well, if you do not like your drinks so strong (and the right way to have a Pálinka is as a shot) look for the Fütyülös type.

And you, do you have any more suggestions for Budapest where to stay, eat and go out?



Weekend in Budapest: a little guide

A few weeks ago I went to spend a few days in the capital of Hungary, Budapest … and I loved it. In this post I tell you what we saw in Budapest in a weekend (a long one, three days).

And although we love Finland in Big in Finland – that’s clear -, we will also start talking more about other interesting places we are traveling to. There will be this too on the blog from now on.

By the way! When I’m traveling, the best way to keep up is through our instagram. In case you want to stay more up to date.

The Hungarian Parliament seen from the Fisherman’s Bastion

Hungary and its language: the Fino-Hungarian roots

I always wanted to visit Hungary, because of its idiomatic connection with Finland.

Hungary’s language is Hungarian, which comes from the same root as Finnish before they both diverged in separate languages. And although I paid enough attention to see if I could connect something between both languages, I have to admit that I couldn’t do it.

In any case, I did discover a new destination that I liked.

A weekend in Budapest isn't complete without a visit to the St Stephen's Basilica
From the dome of St. Stephen’s Basilica, the largest church in Budapest.

Traveling to Budapest: less CO2

Thinking about how to travel, lately I have one more factor in consideration: how much CO2 the means of transport of my choosing emits. So, we took the night train – night cabin with bed! I had not done that since my first Interrail with 18 years – to cover the distance between Berlin and Budapest and arrive in the morning. If you are interested in the subject, I wrote a post about knowing and / or offsetting your CO2 emissions.

Budapest – Keleti Station

The Budapest Card: perfect for moving around in a weekend in Budapest

Before leaving we contacted the Budapest city tourist office to learn more about the city. They provided us with a pair of Budapest Card to move around the city without stopping all the time to buy transport tickets for subways and trams (included in the card), something we thank them from here. If you are interested in discovering the city without complications, this is the website where you can get one. We got the the 72-hour one, which you can get for € 43 (you also have it for 48 hours for € 33 and 24 hours for € 22), which is not a bad price for the time you save and everything that includes. If you are interested in knowing more, this is their website.

We used it, for instance, to go to the Lukács Spa (included), move up and down the city with transportation (also included) – with these two things the card has practically paid for itself – and to have reduced admission into several of the city’s monuments and sights. It also includes two two-hour walking tours that will cost you zero, one for the Buda and one for the Pest side of the city (no kidding: that’s what the two parts of the city are called, separated by the Danube).

Apart from all that, you can see the places that accept the card (free activities or discounts) in the following image. Click here to see it full screen.

Budapest Card: places of acceptance
Places of acceptance of the Budapest Card

In the following posts we continue telling you what we were doing in our weekend in Budapest and what we liked the most. Including: areas to stay around the center, what to eat and drink, the Spas and resorts and recommendations of a Hungarian gentleman. This is the next post.

And you, have you been to Budapest? Go ahead and add your tips about Budapest in the comments!



Offset co2 emissions while traveling

I think it was a year ago when I first heard it. It was a social movement that, although it was making travel more inconvenient, was focused on switching plane rides to train rides. Companies were starting to send their employees on business trips by train instead of by plane. The idea behind this was to reduce emissions, and – when it was not possible – at least to offset CO2 emissions.

And it seems that, instead of being the classic thing that decays after a big PR announcement of the company in question, more and more people think about when traveling. Today’s post is about that.

The social movement that aims to quit traveling by plane

I wanted to investigate more about this. It seems that it all began in Sweden a year ago with something called “Flygskam“. It translates as “shame for flying” (as it can be read in Wikidata): feelings of shame over flying for environmental reasons.

No wonder the concept started in Sweden: Swedes fly seven times more than the average European, and 61% of all the CO2 emitted by the country is caused by air travel. Thus, many of them switched to trains in light of this.

This year I was also present in a couple of conversations on this subject. People told me that several German companies no longer pay the plane for their employees if the trip is within the country, but they pay for the train instead. Companies that do that are for example Tele 5, Richel Stauss , Weiberwirtschaft and Naturstrom. Bosch, instead of doing that, donates money to offset CO2 emissions from its employees on business trips, as Tagesspiegel (DE) tells us .

Train tracks in Finland
Train beats plane in CO2 emissions.

Within Europe, Spain seems to be a leading country in high-speed train network to cover this initiative. Unfortunately, many countries are still lagging behind on this topic. In Germany for example there is only one high-speed train line between Munich and Berlin, and that’s it. And in Finland the only one I know is the Lapland Express train.

How do I know my CO2 emissions while traveling?

If you also have this feeling, or you are simply curious and you want to see the emissions a given person would produce on a particular flight, there is a page that I use: Atmosfair .

In it there is a calculator to see what are the CO2 emissions of your flight or cruise, and if you want to also offset CO2 emissions – for the entire trip or a custom donation – you can do it too.
For example, these are the results on a round trip flight between Helsinki and Madrid:

To offset CO2 emissions properly, you have to know what they are.

And if you decide to offset the carbon, being this a donation you can deduct on your tax return, as they give you a certificate for it.

I have also started to do offset CO2 (sometimes)

I’ve done this in last trips of Big in Finland, of which we will talk soon in the blog (if you want spoilers, you can see where we have been in the instagram of Big in Finland ). It is not much, but even little is a little help for the planet.

And you, have thought about this subject? Have you ever (or will you) switched plane for train, or offset CO2 via donation or tax? Let us know in the comments.




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