world heritages

Entry Info

5th (Fri)
Aug 2011

[Day154] Sintra Excursion

Oh, before I noticed the gap between this travelogue and the actual travel date has became more than 1 year. Well, although I need to tackle it with the accuracy of my memory, I'll keep up writing this blog at my own pace.

Sintra ExcurionThis time I'm going to write about the story of when I went to Sintra, a small town next to Lisbon. Sintra is famous for being located on the Western edge of the Eurasian continent and also has some old palaces build in the monarchic era. As the access to the town was not really convenient, I had to consider about the transportation but luckily my accommodation, travellers house, was carrying a budget bus tour around the area and I decided to hop on.

On the previous posts, I wrote some about my personal anti excursion tour policy. I prefer keeping my own pace to being dragged by guides and that's why I chose backpacking. However, this tour to Sintra was hosted by Traveller's House that is world's no1 hostel ranked at hostelworld.com and knows very well about the preferences of backpackers. Their basic style was that a merry driver just took us to the attractions and let us walk around the each area freely. On the bus, we listened to Portuguese history from the driver told and talked made chitchat with the fellow passengers. It was so relaxing that I became thinking of these kinds of "take-it-easy" trips are not that bad even though I like a sort of a hard core backpacking like toiling away on the unfamiliar roads yet laughing away the troubles.

Sintra ExcurionThe tour first arrived at Pena National Palace which is the foremost tourist attraction of Sintra. Unfortunately, it was prohibited to take photographs of its interiors, but shooting the brightly coloured exterior which is a mixture of multi construction manners was fun enough. I was wondering how come they decorated the walls with such a flashy style.

Sintra ExcurionThe next one was a famous castle too(sorry I forgot the name of it). It was like a little adventure to walk around the green garden with streams as there was a well down to the underground plus underground passages to the streams. Although the size of the building itself was smaller than the Pena Palace, I fully enjoyed walking on this castle and the area.

Sintra ExcurionCabo da Roca (Cape Roka) the westernmost cape of the Eurasia is the place I really wanted to come on this excursion. Having departed from the far east 6 months ago, I finally arrived at the western edge and observing to the even west, there should be the America continent over the ocean. Thinking of the journey afterwards, I was so exhilarated. Ideally, it would've been great if we could watch the sunset from here but it was the point I had give in due to the tour. Maybe for the next time in the future.

I stayed in Lisbon for 7 days in total and time went by so quickly as usual. From here, I was going to travel around Europe by train for 100 days. I'll write not about travelogues but general information about trains in Europe.

Entry Info

Jerusalem, the Holy PlaceIt took only an hour to come to the huge Jerusalem bus terminal by an express coach from Tel Aviv. From the terminal, I took a local bus to the Palm Hostel recommended by the other travellers. This hotel is owned by an Arabic owner and one bed per night costs only 50ILS(15USD) which is absolutely cheap in Jerusalem. Because of this fact, many travellers visit this hostel from all over the world. At the time, the majorities consisted of Koreans and Germans. According to the owner many Japanese stay there but it was not the peak season of the Japanese travellers. Well, he knows a lot.

Jerusalem, the Holy PlaceJust in front of the accommodation, stands the Damascus gate which is one of the main entrances of the old town and going through the gate I could find the Muslim area of the Jerusalem old town. Fresh vegetables and fruits, colourful spices, bizarre electric appliances, even though the size of the cities were bit different, this scenery reminded me the other Arabic cities I'd passed such as Amman and Damascus and I somehow felt a kind of nostalgia.

Jerusalem, the Holy PlaceWalking for a while, a strict security gate guarded by armed soldiers appeared on my eye sight. As if it had been at the airport, I had to go through the x-ray security check and it was a large Square after the gate. Wearing pure white shirts and deep black suites, having long moustaches, putting top hats, exactly the typical looking Jews were praying against a gigantic wall. This is the famous "Western Wall".

The Western Wall is the only remaining part of the Jerusalem Temple which was the foremost holly place for Jews built by the King David before the Common Era. The prosperity of the old Israel Kingdom had been destroyed by the Roman invasion and since then the broken Jews around the world have been wailing for this tragedy and praying for the rebuilding of the kingdom. Being surrounded by tourists, many Jews were earnestly praying towards the wall. There was a special corner for foreigners and travellers were allowed to imitate praying but this dignified atmosphere hindered me doing so.

Jerusalem, the Holy PlaceLooking up the wall, the Dome of the Rock, the oldest Muslim building is standing behind it. As well as Jews, Jerusalem is one of the holiest places for Muslims. It is said Mohamed, the founder of Islam, had a holy experience flying to Jerusalem from Mecca for one night. Unfortunately, the area itself was restricted for the non Muslim visitors but I could see the golden dome very well from the hill.

Continuing the walking further, I arrived at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is believed to have been built on Golgotha. Well, I might have learnt about the Crusades when I was sleeping on the desk. On the day, I heard Christian tourists singing choirs under the sound of bells.

Jerusalem, the Holy PlaceIt took only 2 hours to walk around this course. It would've taken less than 1 hour without any halt and within this tiny area the three big religions called "Abrahamic religions" have their most holy places. I could see the tense atmosphere -Jerusalem is the most contentious city place of the world- from the soldiers everywhere carrying heavy machine guns. However, I felt absolutely safe there too ironically due to the soldiers. Nobody would commit mugging or whatever in front of the machine guns.

Well anyway, religions are so difficult. Since when I stayed in Australia, I've been thinking that humans tend to congregate according to their similarities. Family blood, nationality, gender, school, race, favourite musicians etc., if somebody has the same attribute, we recognise this person is a friend and develop intimacy. On the other hand, if the person has the opposite attribute, we are prone to be exclusive. Religions are the epitome of this story; if they share the same doctrine they can be fellows even beyond nationalities yet they could be brutal to the others if they believe in their god as the only true religion

And Jerusalem has three religions believing their own god is the only one and claiming "this city is ours". Well, it's understandable that this is the most disputed area of the world for ages. I'd like to grumble, "Dear God, how many of you are here and who is real?"

On the other hand, our Japanese view of religions is completely opposite to this. An average Japanese celebrated their childhood at a Shinto shrine, wedding at a Christian church, and funeral at a Buddhist temple. What's more, we have a very busy year ends starting from Christmas(Christianity), end of the year bell(Buddism), and new year visit to Shrine(Shintoism). However, we don't really believe in those seriously, I know quite a few Japanese got confused at abroad when they were asked "Do you believe in the God?"

Speaking about myself, I used to suffer from this but for now I'm actually proud of not relying on anything too much. I suppose, for this reason I can make judgments based on my own value. Therefore if I had to state, I believe in myself and social morality. For instance, speaking about a support to the others, I do it because I want to see their smile not because I was told by God "You can go to the heaven if you do so".

Oh, I've sidetracked from the heavy story. But I don't want to conclude this entry with a cheap phrase like "May the peace arrive soon." as I was forced to ponder over something deep for the human's sin and karma. Mutual concessions, forgiveness, and acceptance, I assume all of us were taught these things in our childhood but a lot of adults all over the world can't follow them. Well, maybe because it's even difficult for adults, we teach them to the children. I wonder when everyone will become capable of these principles..

Entry Info

The Roads of CappadociaGyoreme National Park and Rock Site of Cappadocia is registered as the "mixed (Nature and Culture)" world heritage which is in fact quite rare among number of world heritage sites. Pillars of strange shaped stoned around there, the surroundings look totally in another world. I heard that some parts of Cappadocia were used as the sets of Star Wars Episode1. In fact, I could possibly believe if someone presented a photo of Cappadocia as "from another planet". The local people had been living inside of the rock caves until recently and there are still many caves remaining over the area.

The accommodation at Gyoreme

The Roads of Cappadocia>What's more, an interesting thing about Cappadocia is that you can sleep inside the caves. Besides, not only the expensive touristic hotels, there are some reasonable backpackers hostels available too. At this time, we stayed at "Yashin's Backpackers Cave" which is reviewed in avery good manner at hostelworld.com. Although Shin and Tomoko, who were travelling with me, hadn't booked there, the owner, Yashin, kindly gave us a three bed private room. Yashin knows everywhere about Gyoreme since he's been brought up there. Restaurants, tour info, Turkish Spa etc., his advice(with discount!) helped us a lot. I found 20TRY(15USD) per night with a deliciously cooked breakfast was very reasonable. Though the quality and cleanness of the facility were not as good as the decent hotels', their personal service and hospitality could be on a par with the 5 star luxurious hotels.

As the weather was bit tricky, Cappadocia in early May was a kind of off season in Turkish local tourism. In fact, there were a few European groups at the accommodation and Gyoreme town didn't look very busy. However, quite a few Japanese tourists were walking on the street. Besides, they were not backpackers, but ordinary tourists who used huge tour buses and went to luxurious cave hotels with spa and pool. I knew Turkey is one of the favourite destinations among Japanese tourists, but when we thought about it carefully it was the middle of a Japanese holiday week, the so called the Golden Week. We have to be careful for that we could lose the sense of days easily during the long journey.

Pros and Cons of package tours

The Roads of CappadociaIn terms of package tours, I don't really like them. In fact, because of that I'm bad at travelling with groups, I'd rather choose travelling alone. Nevertheless, so vast is the area of Cappadocia of which a number of famous spots dotted within several ten kilometres radius that we were encouraged to join the local tour. The tour was so-so, just as we expected. In fact the guide efficiently took us through many places, which were not really reachable as a personal tourist, such as the underground city and the old monastery but "the efficient guide" was bit argumentative as he hurried us when we wanted to stay longer whereas he remained longer where we didn't care much. I know he had to make his pace for "the greatest common good" of the all participants but I painfully realised that I should avoid the tours attempting to cover a lot of places. Probably, the best way is chartering a taxi and asking the driver just to take us to the entrance of the places but the budget no longer allowed the ordinary backpacker to do so.

My best form of travelling

The Roads of CappadociaTherefore, for the near spot, disregarding to the efficiency we decided to go there by ourselves with the local bus info from the accommodation and a rough map from a guidebook. Following to the advice from the local people and the intuition of travellers, we made headway to the destination. If I'd travelling completely alone, I could've been a bit worried about daring this kind of adventure but my amiable fellow travellers could change the situations drastically. Even losing and recovering the way became a sort of fun. Speaking so, I suppose a couple travelling together is a kind of ideal form. Though sometimes they have to overcome the ordeals, as far as the couples I know looked keeping their distance moderately and enjoying themselves travelling together.

The Roads of CappadociaAfter walking on the wild land with strange stones, finally we arrived at the destination. This mushroom shape stone is a kind of icon of Cappadocia as the photo of it is overly used on every guide book about this area. Not caring about the geologic instructions, the different layers which were eroded blah blah blah, we were just stunned by the shapes of the stones which were different from the ones around Gyoreme central. Incidentally, we found out from the view on the stones that we didn't use the proper paved roads but just wandered along the local farm roads. Thanks to not being led by an experienced guide, we could enjoy this type of adventure. In these days, I strongly believe that travelling is not just having fun at destinations but it is literary 'travelling', I mean the whole process of going to and coming back from the destination is an entertaining part of travelling.

The Roads of CappadociaOn the way back to Gyoreme, we were challenged by going back on foot as the bus didn't come soon. When we came there it took less than 15 minutes by bus. So it should take no more than 1 and half hours even on foot. It would be pleasant walking as the view on the street was quite nice even though we'd already walked more than 3 hours. After walking 30 minutes under the intense sunshine on the early May, we were called by the local guys driving a car. They asked us "Where are you going? You can come with us." It's very kind of them indeed. "To Gyoreme!", we replied and they gestured "Come in." Thanks to them we skipped a one hour walk. Although I could've had a bit of serious concern if I had been alone, we had three people and they were two. Considering the locality, we judged it wouldn't be very dangerous. Though sometimes it sounds bit tricky, the kindness from the local people always cheers me.

Like this and that, we spent 5 nights in Gyoreme. The next destination will be Istanbul the bridge between Asia and Europe. At last the travelling on the Middle East is close to the end.

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