Zurich in spring/summer- 5 top things to do.

Spring and summer are the best times to visit Switzerland and May – September are the best months.

With the dark cold winter coming to an end, by March the days are already longer and the trees begin to look green again. April can be cold, so if you’re willing to face the unexpected odd snow storm, it can be a good time too.

However, starting in June, temperatures are better, normally above 20C in the day and sunset isn’t until 8.30, so the days are warm and long – full of things to do!

5 of our favorite things, when the sun is shining, include

1. Experience the outdoors:

Go for a hike or a long walk in the mountains. The sun isn’t too hot and the distant high peaks are still snow capped, so the views are gorgeous!

2. Have a picnic:

Spring is grilling time – everyone brings out their grills and the evening air is rich with the scents of grilling meats, sausages and burgers. A lot of parks allow charcoal grills, and there are public grills available on first come first served basis.

3. Swim in the river and lake:

With the air temperatures up to 28-30C the water is delicious and refreshing at 18C. All the public swimming areas are open and after baking in the sun a quick dip is just the thing!

4. Have a drink outdoors:

With the pleasant temperatures and long sunny days, open air bars pop up like mushrooms all over the city and are a great way to take a break. Aperol spritz is the drink of choice on a warm day Also you’re allowed to drink anywhere in Zurich, so it’s perfectly natural to walk around with a chilled beer too.

5. Open air events in Zurich:

Impromptu and planned music events occur all over the city and are worth an evening.

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Experiencing a sauna in Finland

One of the must-do things in Finland is experience a sauna. It’s a quintessential part of the culture and makes for a unique experience.

After a long hike, where we were lost a good part of the way (separate post coming up), a sauna felt like the perfect way to relax. Driving up towards Tampere, we found it was right by lake Kaukajarven, which was great! Also there were lots of people outside, cooling off, wearing swimsuits. This had been another fear – none of us felt brave enough to be a part of a naked sauna just yet.

Try the hot saunas!

We paid 7 EUR per head to enter Kaukajarven Uimala. We went off into the separate male and female changing rooms, hoping we could meet outside once ready. The changing rooms led to two saunas of different temperatures, both were mixed sex. Likely this explained the swimsuits, but it was great, since we could now sit together. There were mats and sitting pads outside each room for you to help yourself and a water fountain to stay hydrated.

Take a dip in the ice cold lake!

10 mins of 60C felt like enough, so we stepped out to cool off. All the locals would, at this point, walk into the lake. The water, we read, was at 2C and there was still ice on the surface a few feet from where we stood. Jumping into this felt like madness! Still, when in Finland….

Conserving all the heat we just acquired, we rushed to the steps leading into the lake and before there could be a change of heart, climbed down into the water. The cold water was a shock to the system and in a couple of seconds we were all gasping for breath and clambering out. However once out, the air, which itself was about 12C, felt comfortable and we were happy to stand outside – something that had felt really difficult sometime back. The water not only dramatically cooled the body making going back into the sauna possible, it also created an adrenaline rush, which could become quite addictive!

Chat with the locals at a sauna

The locals, from whom this is really no big deal, were very amused at our excitement but were pleased to see that we were embracing their culture and actually spoke to us about it! This was surprising too, since everything we had seen and heard said Finns are normally quiet and reserved and will not go out of their way to initiate conversations with strangers. It seemed like the sauna relaxed them enough to allow them to speak to us!

Invigorated and excited, we did this hot-cold cycle a few times more, until it was time for the sauna to close for the evening. It was 9 pm for this sauna.

Overall a great experience, our skin felt refreshed, bodies relaxed and minds ready to take on the next challenge!

Definitely recommend this!

Looking for a day trip from Helsinki? Take the ferry to Tallinn. Read our blog post here

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1 day in Tallinn, Estonia

Tallinn is the capital of Estonia and a wonderful city to go visit for a day or two. It’s perfectly accessible by air, bus/train from mainland Europe and by ferry from Helsinki. We took the ferry from Helsinki – it was a short, two hour ride and turned it to be very comfortable.

Here are a few things to do in 24 hours in Tallinn.

Visit the historical old town of Tallinn

The old town of Tallinn is a UNESCO heritage site. It is a great place to get a glimpse into the history of Tallinn and Estonia. Take the free walking tour and get a quick summary of the stories behind the city’s monuments and history. We took the tour with EstAdventures and our guide Kadri was great.

Drink the local Estonian beer

The craft beer revolution is in full swing in Estonia. They know and love their beer, and for 5 EUR for a beer, we were convinced to join them too! Craft brewers from all over the country come to Tallinn and we had the chance to try a few of the local beers.

Check out our blog post on bars to check out (coming soon)

Get the medieval experience

Thanks to Game of Thrones, all things medieval are cool. Tallinn has a medieval feel and knows it! And they go all out – so even if it feels touristy or kitschy, the experience can be quite enjoyable! See dragons at the town hall, check out the old city wall or go for a candlelight dinner at Olde Hansa.

For us, 24 hours felt like just enough time in Tallinn, but Estonia – we’ll be back!

Skiing in Brunni Alpthal

This winter we are exploring ski areas close to Zurich and Luzern. This weekend we visited a new ski aeea, Brunni Alpthal. There are a couple of larger ski areas in the same region as well, Sattel Hochstuckli and Hoch -Ybrig.

How do you get there?

Brunni is a smaller ski area in the region but fairly easy to access due to its proximity to Einsiedeln. It is only 45 min by car from Zurich. Once you get to the parking lot, you can be on the slopes within 10 min. And the views of Grosser Mythen are available even in the parking lot.

Brunni is a good place for beginners and those who want to practice their basics. We only tried the blue slopes this time. More practice needed for the red slopes The top can be reached by T-bar only. There aren’t any cable cars yet the views from the top are amazing

For those who don’t ski, there are some great hiking, snow shoe trails where you can go knee deep in the powder

How much does it cost?

Brunni is very affordable. A half day pass was 25 CHF and ski rental was 35 CHF.

Kenya Visa for Indian citizens

If you have an Indian passport, it’s likely you’ve experienced the pain of getting visas for most countries. Kenya is an exception!

Visa on arrival is possible for Indian passport holders. You can choose to do it online before the visit or directly on arrival. Online queue moves a little quicker but the on arrival isn’t that slow. Both cost 50 USD for single entry visa.

Single entry is a bit of a misnomer, the visa allows you multiple entries for up to 3 months.

If you are just transiting in Kenya on to other countries like Tanzania in our case, can get a transit visa for 25 USD valid for 72 hours

More information can be found at link below

http://evisa.go.ke/evisa-faqs.html

Ski trip to Zermatt, Switzerland

One of the most, if not THE most recognizable mountain peak in the world is Matterhorn. The village/town at the foot of Matterhorn is Zermatt.

How do you get to Zermatt?

It’s a long day trip or a relaxed weekend trip from Zurich or Luzern. Driving from Zurich is probably the most convinient and takes 3 hours and you get to try the car-train (scary and fun!). By train it takes approximately 4 hours

Zermatt is a car-free village

If you drive, you have to park your car outside Zermatt which is a car free village. To get to the ski slopes you have to take a train which costs xxx and offers stunning views of Matterhorn

Skiing in Zermatt

Ski lift tickets are a bit pricey but that goes with the popularity of the location and also the quality of the slopes, which is fantastic. It costs 60 CHF and includes the train that takes you to the slopes. The ski rental was also expensive (80CHF) but the views make it completely worth the price. More information can be found on the Zermatt website

What else can I do in Zermatt?

If you don’t like skiiing, there’s many trails to go snow shoe hiking or just go to one of the restaurents and have some food and beer. We went an awesome igloo, Iglu-Dorf, on the slopes that served local Swiss food (fondue and rosti) and chilled beer. For additional activities in the village, check out the Zermatt website

 

Skiing near Zurich -Stoos

One of the amazing things in Switzerland is the proximity and easy access to world class ski facilities. Within a one hour driving distance from Zurich there are many great locations where you can ski/snowboard.

This weekend we visited Stoos. The village of Stoos is car free and can be accessed only by a funicular / cable car.

World’s steepest cable car

The funicular is the world’s steepest and is a must try. A round trip ticket costs 11 CHF with a half fare card. If you plan to ski, a day pass costs 50 CHF and also includes a round trip cable car ticket.

Pro tip: but your ticket online on the Stoos website and get discounted prices

Affordable and accessible ski slopes

Once at the top, it’s easy to rent ski equipment right outside the cable car exit and is very reasonable – 50 CHF for a full day.

Within 15 min we were on the practice slopes and later to Fronalpstock. There is a restaurant at the top with amazing views of Lake Luzern and the surrounding mountains

Top 12 beers to taste in Belgium

Brussels is a beer heaven! It is home to some of the best and most diffrentiated beers in the world.

Trappist beers

Brewed by the trappist monks in the traditional way, only 12 breweries in the world can produce trappist beer. Of them 6 can be found in Belgium!

1. Orval

One of the 6 trappist beers from Belgium. Dark, sweetish not bitter, tasty. Very different from other beers we’ve tried.

2. Westmalle tripel

Tripel = strong, blonde, smooth and delicious. One of the 6 trappist Belgian beers. Also recommended is Westmalle double.

3. Achel bruin

Smooth, strong and delicious. One of the 6 trappist Belgian beers. Also available in a blonde version.

4. Chimay

Dark, refreshing and recommended as a great beer by the locals.

5. Rochefort 8, 10

Lambic beers

6. Kriek de ranke

Sour, refreshing and red.

7. La moederation

Brewed for moeder lambic. Strong 8 %, slightly bitter and mildly hoppy. Super refreshing on a hot day.

8. Cantillon

A. Gueze

Blend of 1,2,3 year old lambics. Not too sour but not the best lambic I’ve tasted.

B. Rose de Gambrinus

Gueze plus raspberries added during year 2 of fermentation. Great aroma, not too sour. Light and easy to drink.

Other famous Belgian beers

9. Delirium nocturnum

Brown beer. Fantastic flavors and probably better than delirium tremens.

10. St Feuillien grand cru

Strong, blond beer. Sneaky beer, smooth taste but can hit you hard.

Beers from Bruges

11. Brugse Zot

The most popular beer in Bruges from De Halve Maan brewery is called Zot after all the drunk, crazy inhabitants of Bruges.

12. Straffe Hendrik Quadruple

Also from De Halve Maan, this beer packs a punch!

Capadoccia Hot Air Balloon Ride

Hot air balloon ride!

Our experience of the hot air balloon ride was so much fun, that we felt it warranted a separate blog post altogether. Read about things to do in Cappadocia here, and about the pièce de résistance of our trip, below!

As touristy and predictable as it sounds, definitely try to include a hot air balloon ride in your itinerary!

Weather

The ride depends entirely on the weather and can be cancelled at the last minute, so if you can, try and assign at least 2 mornings to giving it a shot.

Cost

Rides can cost anywhere from 120-150 EUR cash (credit card payment costs 10 EUR more) and are cheaper if you book them at the shop or online, instead of going through the hotel.

On the day..

With the booking out of the way, the rest of the experience is quite a lot of fun!

You wake up before dawn, around 4 am (they will knock on your hotel room door if you aren’t ready), and are picked-up from your hotel in a mini bus full of other sleepy people. If you are bought to a field, it is likely that the trip will not happen- they might serve coffee and biscuits and take you back to the hotel. In this case, you’re back at the hotel by about 5.30 am. We used the opportunity to go back to sleep and began the day (again) at a more reasonable hour (read 10.30 am)!

If, on the other hand, the mini bus brings you to a hotel lobby or to the shop front, to lots of people looking extremely busy, the trip is on! You are assigned a balloon number and can help yourself to breakfast while you wait. Frantic activity ensues and you’re transported to your balloon.

The rest is magic 🙂

Field full of balloons, ready for take off!
Goreme panorama
Good morning Goreme!

Ending with a toast of champagne (alcohol-free, so sparkling grape juice), you’re back in your hotel by 8 am, well before the day has begun for anyone else!

We had been a bit skeptical about how touristy and hyped the hot air balloon rides were, but were happily mistaken. It is really fun and despite the crowd and hundreds of balloons in the sky, the experience is special and definitely recommended!

2 days in Cappadocia, Turkey, and a hot air balloon ride!

Besides hot air balloon rides, which it is famous for, Cappadocia offers a wide variety of things to do and places to visit. Here’s what we would recommend one could do with 2 days in Cappadocia.

Logistics

Turkish airlines offers cheap flights from Sabiha Gökçen Airport in Istanbul to Nevşehir Kapadokya Airport, which is about 30 km from the main town of Goreme.

Having explored the different ways of getting to and from the two airports in Istanbul and the one in Nevşehir, read about some tips and tricks for travel in Turkey in the separate blog post (coming soon)

Things to do in Cappadocia

With 7 days in Turkey, we jumped on the opportunity to explore a new city. Cappadocia, for us, had always been the place people went for a hot air balloon ride, but we were sure there had to be much more to the area. And we were not disappointed!

Nevsehir airport

Goreme open-air museum

This was one of the biggest, and most pleasant, surprises! One of Turkey’s Unesco World Heritage sites, the Goreme open air museum is a vast complex that was inhabited by early Christians and comprises a number of churches, hewn out of gigantic standing rocks.

Some of the churches still retain the original fresco paintings inside, if you ask the curators in some of the churches, they might even point out interesting features and tell you some of the history and stories! Definitely recommended.

Also dont miss the church that is outside the open-air museum complex, but can be entered using the same ticket. The blue frescos are quite stunning!

Rose / Red valley

A little difficult to get to, unless you have your own vehicle or are part of a tour, it is worth visiting, especially at sunset! Watching the sun set over the vast expanse of unusual red rock formations is quite a sight.

Rose and Red Valley

(We walked there from the Goreme open air museum- the roads are marked with red arrows that point the way so it is difficult to get lost. But it is a long walk, with nothing much to see on the way there. The exciting part of our return journey was the ride we got from a British couple who were on holiday- big shout out to you both, wherever you are!)

If you have time when at the Red valley, there are trails running through the rocks and structures, which look interesting to explore.

Underground city

There are 2 underground cities, easily accessible from Goreme, Derinkuyu- the deepest and Kaymakli- the widest.

Public transport from Goreme to both, Dekinkuyu and Kaymakli is very affordable and straightforward, so unless you already have a car, the local bus is an easy way to get there: Goreme-> Nevsehir, change at Nevsehir to another bus to Derinkuyu or Kaymakli. The locals are extremely helpful and friendly and will go out of their way to make sure you get to exactly where you want!

We visited Derinkuyu and would recommend it. It is about 60 m deep and consists of a maze of tunnels, and rooms- including a winery, a stable and a school. Crawling though some of the low tunnels, it is fascinating to imagine people building and living in entire cities underground!

Uçhisar Castle, Nevsehir

Another fascinating giant rock formation, it towers above Nevsehir and is clearly visible from most of the surrounding cities. It looks like an enormous ant-hill and, being perched at a height, it offers great views of the surrounding areas.

 

Pigeon valley

If you fancy a hike back from Uchisar to Goreme, definitely do not miss walking through the Pigeon Valley. It is a picturesque valley, comprising extremely unusual rock formations, cave dwellings and watched over by a distant volcano.

The trails, unfortunately, are not marked and you can go for hours without meeting another person. Be prepared to spend some time getting lost, exploring paths that end in steep drops or that go nowhere. Sadly for us, the trail that should have led to Goreme looked like it had been washed away, so we had to find our way back to Uchisar instead of getting to Goreme. Still the views were well worth the effort!

Relax!

Cappadocia is a wine growing area and their red is quite good, warranting an evening with a glass or two.

After a hot day of wandering, a chilled beer and shisha (nargile) is a great way to rest the aching feet too!

Blow your troubles away 🙂

And finally, Hot air balloon ride

As touristy and predictable as it sounds, definitely try to include a hot air balloon ride in your itinerary! Since it was quite an experience, we decided it warranted a separate post, read all about the hot air balloon ride here.

Short and sweet, as most of our trips are, Cappadocia is a must visit if you have time in Turkey!