Saturday, 13 August 2016

Stockholm On A Budget: Day One

Knowing your bus and walking routes beforehand will be well worth the effort travelling around Stockholm.

I spent the first day pretty tired from the travel (just me after a long week at work) hence I chose to keep to the hotel premises. Laid out across the restaurant table, however, were my plans for the days ahead. With my travel pass at hand, I quickly discovered that knowing your bus routes, destination and where the actual stop is became essential. So here is the route I mapped out for my first day for your convenience.

After 20 minutes of aimlessly wandering around, and realising I had jumped on the wrong bus, I thanked the fact I had an unlimited travel card. Fourteen stops later, cutting right across the north of the city to Gamla Stan (the Old Town), I made it to the first destination - Stadshuset, or in English, Stockholm's City Hall.

You may think why the hell would I want to visit a city hall? After all, our own one isn't exactly a tourist attraction, but the views from the back of the building and the ornate architecture is well worth a look. First of all, the fact that it's free to enter is always a bonus. From May through September, you can climb the 103 steps up the tower for a pretty spectacular view - unfortunately due to my gimpy leg, I missed out on this extravaganza.

Instead, I walked further along, crossing a bridge into Gamla Stan, a medieval labyrinth of cobblestone streets and sapphire-hued buildings. The first landmark to galvanise the view is the
Riddarholm Church. Early enough and you'll miss all the crowds that usually surround this little beauty. I didn't enter as it opened at 10am, but it costs around 50SEK (£4.50).

Turning back on yourself, you can head up towards Kungliga Slottet (Royal Palace), apparently the world's largest palace still used for its original purpose. There were a few ominous-looking guards outside eyeing me up as I innocently photographed the amazing pylons, but Europe has been on high alert for a while, so unfortunately it's not my first time.
Next stop along the route was on the other side of the palace, which allowed you to capture Stockholm's gothic churches - Slottskyrkan, Finska kyrkan and Storkyrkan - all in one place. The unlevel paving by no means hinders you from getting around, especially as the entire area is housed in a walkable complex.

And behind all the lavish structures and edifices lies a sweet little idol - not hundreds of metre tall, just 15cm small - the Järnpojke or as it is known in English, "the little boy who looks at the moon", was created in 1954 by Swedish artist Liss Eriksson. Expect it to change on a daily basis, appearing with a hat and a scarf or a flower between his folded arms depending on the season.

So as you might have guessed, there's a lot of walking involved so prepare to stretch your legs! Meandering back through the alleyways, you'll end up at a European-looking square where the Nobel Prize Museum proudly stands. Without realising that I had ended up travelling to the city at a time when they celebrated Ascension day, I missed out on seeing this gem, but I heard it costs 100SEK (£9) to enter.

The next church down the road is the German church, founded in the 15th century - and at this point you'd probably be buildinged-out as I definitely was, so I headed straight past to Marten Trotzigs Grand, the city's narrowest alleyway.

As I am claustrophobic, just looking at it was enough but it was literally big enough for a small child. A fat American tourist unfortunately would quite likely get wedged tight down this roofless tunnel.

And after this mighty effort travelling around Gamla Stan, it's time to get some grub.

Friday, 12 August 2016

Stockholm: In Three Days On A Budget

The Essentials


As you may have realised, it's been a long while since I wrote on this blogsite, hence with age comes a few more luxuries. While I find it a bit more difficult to slum it these days, it's still very possible to find reasonably-priced accommodation coupled with a good night's sleep.

The best way of comparing prices are sites such as TravelSupermarket or Sky Scanner - just so you know what to expect and when to go without having a last minute heart attack. Sweden is one of those places where it's easy to burn a hole in your pocket - so travelling smart is key.

As I am now holidaying in-between work, I tend to fork out for my own room these days - so the one that I can recommend is the First Hotel Norrtull in Vasastan. It's a bit more upmarket and a standard stay for business folk, but expect free breakfast for the £90 room tag (for two nights). It's also about a 15 minute walk from the city centre, but has great transport links.

Using third party websites:

After using, I found that the difference between staying in a dorm and a hotel was around £50. It's a steep difference, even booked two months in advance, so you have a choice of staying in a hostel or a 'cheapish' hotel. Weekdays are the best especially as room prices shoot up on a Friday for the three day weekend.

When using - make sure you choose the options 7+ and above on the review score section on the left hand menu bar to find the best hostels - for two nights expect to pay around £50 for a reasonable dorm near the city centre. The one that seems to be popular with great reviews is City Backpackers Hostel.

Getting to and from Stockholm:

Flights can be as cheap as £28 - I find that going on Sky Scanner, selecting the "cheapest month" on the date section, and then choosing the dates according to the price can be a good way of finding a deal. RyanAir and EasyJet are miles ahead in terms of providing low cost flights from Stansted Airport.

Places to See: 

Vasamuseet (Vasa Museum), Skansen Park, Stockholm Archipelago boat ride, Kungliga Slottet (Royal Palace), Stadshuset, Fotografiska, Moderna Museet, Gamla Stan (Old Town), all of these areas are totally walkable.


Stockholm has an extensive transport network, so taking a bus or even a boat is relatively easy. From both Stockholm Skavsta and Arlanda airports, you can take a Flygbussarna bus that goes to and from the centre of town which is £25 return - well worth the money as it's more than an hour long trip.

At the Stockholm Central Station, there are plenty of local shops such as a Seven Eleven where you can buy 24 and 72 hour SL cards as well as a week long pass for SEK300 (£27.50). I'd suggest planning your routes on Google maps beforehand as to avoid panic on the bus. Everyone pretty much speaks English so it's a piece of cake.

I also decided to be a total tourist and jump on one of the red boats near Kungliga Slottet. Two companies Red Sightseeing (£15 for 24 hours) and Stromma (£16.50 for 24 hours) provide boats to travel to all the main hotspots saving a bunch of time as you attempt to make the most of the three days. My legs were definitely toned and my skin tanned by the end of the trip, so sit back, relax and enjoy the view.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Israel: Las Banias at Golan Heights


It's another pricey place, but again for good reason. Officially the border between Syria, Lebanon and Israel, people seem to forget that at one time - the birth of civilisation originated in these countries. So expect amazing waterfalls as the wettest region in the area.

This area isn't for the faint-hearted. The Golan may be a rural area and largely safe, however it is also one of the world's largest military barriers, and while it offers many hiking options, you should always be cautious for firing and mining fields. I found the Hitchhiker's Guide to Galilee, which is definitely a website to watch in the future.

Places to see and do: 

Definitely the Banias are worth a visit (entry fee is NIS 27). This national park follows the Banias stream, and includes some easy and fairly short hiking trails that pass by old water mills, vigorous rapids, and the ruins of a temple to the god Pan. The city was located within the region known as the "Panion" (the region of the Greek god Pan), and is named after the deity associated with the grotto and shrines close to the spring called "Paneas".

Getting to and from Golan Heights: 

Very strange place to try and get to. Apparently has the worst transport connections in the country, which really tells you a lot. It is off 'Route 99', and the nearest bus station (I say it very loosely) is Kiryat Shmona Central Bus station.

From Mikhmoret, take route number 872/852, one of the Egged ones, then you take the 841 bus when changing at Khadera Central Bus station. It takes several hours, and it doesn't end here. Or you can change at Netanya Interchange with the additional option of taking 910. When you get on this interchange, you will need to take 842 to Kiryat Shmona.

You need to see if you can catch a ride through Route 99 to the Banias as it is a little outside the town. If you have a driving licence, you can rent cars from the station, which is always useful. On the way back, it's another case of hitchhiking- and believe me, it takes time to flag down a car that arrives once every half hour.


Getting around the Banias Nature Reserve, is a bit of a doddle if you're fit and you take shortcuts (wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more). But getting there and out is the biggest issue, so I suggest you make car rental plans or go with a tour.

So this place is a hiker's heaven. You need to trek several miles just to get to the place, after hours of travelling on a bus some distance away from the nature reserve. But it's really no wonder. What used to be seen as an important Christian pilgrimage, wouldn't quite have the same effect if it was only a cab ride away. And it could be quite strenuous for those not prepared for the great outdoors. 

Remember: water is a must, and when we were there, we were still allowed to have a quick dip in the waterfall. Not quite sure whether that's the case now. Hats, sun screen, emergency supplies - and all that jazz.

We eventually made it to the Kiryat Shmona, after a hop, skip, jump and a food stop all the way from Mikhmoret. The beaches were a distant memory after visiting the slightly cooler highlands of the country. It was a strange feeling. It took almost 38 hours to feel a change of scenery and climate in India and China, yet this tiny country had the same impact in 4 hours. 

After being left stranded in the nearby town, we realised it wasn't going to be as easy as we thought. We stood on a street corner (completely appropriately of course) and attempted to flag down a car going down route 99, waving our arms frantically as if we were trying to fly there. In the back of some hippy student's car (as always) we made it halfway through the route, before being kicked out. It was time to try flap our wings again.

It took a wee while, but we did eventually make it there in the same day amazingly. And it was packed to seams with tourists, all wearing multi-coloured caps, eager to catch a glimpse of Pan's Labyrinth...I mean Pan's temple.

The temenos (sacred precinct) included a temple, courtyards, a grotto and niches for rituals. It was constructed on an elevated, 80m long natural terrace along the cliff which towered over the north of the city. A four-line inscription at the base of one of the niches relates to Pan and Echo, the mountain nymph, and was dated to 87 CE.

This was just the beginning in the long line of ancient history that followed. After this came the Romans and associations with Jesus, the Byzantine empire, the Crusaders, the Ottoman empire and last but not least, the British empire.

Apart from the history lesson, it had breathtaking landscapes lining the Israeli-Syrian-Lebanese border. The Banias has the mother-of-all-waterfalls in its vicinity.

Depending on one’s pace, there is a 45-minute trail passing both Roman and Crusader sites, followed by another 90-minute walk passing by the Govta Stream until reaching the waterfall, which is generally considered the most impressive in Israel.

A point nine kilometres (about 5½ miles) further, where the Hermon Stream meets the Dan waterway, is the head of the Jordan River.

So what seemed like endless miles, wilting in the heat, we finally saw a glimpse of the waterfall through all of the flora and fauna. And it felt like a mirage, that much water spewing from the rocks, and all we wanted to do is jump into it. 

Except, it being a nature reserve and all, we needed to find a remote spot where the authorities wouldn't bust our chops about it. And a remote spot we found, so far out the loophole that it was behind some revolving gates that said we wouldn't be allowed back, unless we climbed another 2 hours to get to the outside world. We chanced it, despite seeing the gates were against a sheer drop off a cliff side. 

After a speedy dip in freezing cold water, in some bizarre part of the reserve which had an overturned tank, we decided to head back and attempt to take a shortcut. However, this shortcut consisted of climbing back over those gates without preferably falling to our death. And after careful contortion-ism, we made it back, feeling bad for the school kids who had to make that extra journey via the other side.

We finally got back to one of those obscure highway routes and realised that there were two elderly ladies attempting to also flag a car. It wasn't much of a competition, rather it was kind of pathetic. Guys were happily stopping for two young girls but not for those 'mature' women. We stopped a car, who wanted to take us and then pointed to them. He arrogantly shook his head and drove off. 

The next guy stopped for us, but we gave it up for the two women, who gave us absolutely no time of day and not even a courteous thank you! We scoffed and vowed never to help any old-biddy ever again. It was pitch black by the time we got home. And our legs and arms needed a cast from all of the aches and pains.

Israel: Ancient Caesarea Sea Port

Accommodation: So I didn't stay here, mainly because it was worth a day visit from Mikhmoret. It is directly midway between Tel Aviv and Haifa. If you're really desperate to stay, then there are some pretty pricey places so prepare to splurge.

Even local B&Bs start from around £50 per night. Dan Caesarea Hotel is the upmarket version of all of these hotels around £168 per night. Not exactly 'student-friendly' hence travelling from Mikhmoret.

Places to see and do: Well, itself is a national archaeological park, so that's the main thing to see. However, within the park, there are a few standout areas. The ancient and medieval city are preserved within the Caesarea National Park, so expect to find Roman aqueducts, moats, amphitheatre, various mosaics and an excavated palace. The history of this place is fascinating.

Getting to and from Caesarea: Not the easiest place to get to. From Tel Aviv or Netanya, take any bus along the coastal road towards Khadera, where you can disembark and connect with bus No 76 to Caesarea, the best of which depart at 8.20am, 11.25am, 1.10pm and 2.45pm.

Coming from Haifa, get off at the Caesarea intersection and hike or hitch the last 3.5km to the site. Alternatively, take the train (638 8007) to Binyamina from Tel Aviv (21NIS, 45 minutes) or Haifa (17.50NIS, 30 minutes) and look for a taxi to take you the last 7km.

Bus Line 76
Route: Hadera Shopping Centre, Central Bus Station, Hillel Yaffe Hospital, Nahal Hadera, Or Akiva, Caesarea, Sedot Yam

Bus Line 77
Route same as Bus Line 76

Moat surrounding the area.
Transport: It's walkable, but once you're outside, you may need to hitchhike, as buses seem to disappear after a certain time. People are nice enough to let you ride with them to the nearest bus stop. Again, do it with caution.

This was my first lone trip of several in the next few days, my friends having a life of their own and all. So I was pretty nervous. At this point, I started writing down basic phrases in all eventualities. One of the most useful phrases I found was "Le tachana merkazit Hadera?' (change as appropriate) which basically means 'Hadera Central Bus station??'

I actually did need the phrase as I ventured out of Mikhmoret. My friend dropped me off at the nearest bus stop just outside the village, at a motorway junction. I then took a bus to 'Hadera bus station', and eventually after several hours, waiting and twiddling my thumbs, I made it to Caesarea.

Chariot races at the theatre.
By then end, I was just following anyone who was wearing sweatpants tucked into their sandals, or those with a giant camera around their neck - the sign of a bad tourist.

And I was greeted by a moat excavated as part of the ruins, the outer wall of the national park. It seemed endless. All the unearthed parts of the Roman and Byzantine city, built by Herod the Great about 25–13 BCE.

I had seen the splendour of the ancient world at the Great Wall of China, Egypt's pyramids and tombs, India's two thousand year old temples. But this felt more authentic, because it resembled an archaeological dig.

Caesarea Maritima was named in honor of Augustus Caesar. The city became the seat of the Roman prefect soon after its foundation. Caesarea was the "administrative capital" beginning in 6 CE. In Byzantine times, Caesarea remained the capital, with brief interruption of Persian and Jewish conquest between 614 and 625.

In the 630s, Arab Muslim armies had taken control of the region, keeping Caesarea as its administrative centre. No doubt, it was a place of great importance and I felt a bit like Indiana Jones with the Holy Grail.

Even now, the site remains a place for fishermen to do their jobs, which gives the area a sense of purpose rather than turning it completely into a theme park. Of course there were little cinemas, eateries, galleries and an actual stadium created out of its former glory, but it all existed only to highlight the seaport's importance.

I spent the time soaking up every bit of its history including watching the 'cinemas', although some were in Hebrew. There were even men dressed up in costumes, attempting to recreate the people from the various empires that resided there, just to give some context to the history.

Eventually, the sun started to set over the sea, and it was beautiful to watch it glimmer of the waters. Except, I got carries away, and realised this meant it was 6pm and the park was about to close, and the buses were about to run off into the distance.

I ran out of there and waited for a good half hour at the bus stop before realising it was the end of the day. So looking a bit like a damsel in distress, I paced about until an elderly Jewish woman with her family stopped and gave me a ride to a bus stand near the motorway.

On the return journey, I couldn't help and buy a falafel kebab. You can't beat an authentic one from the country. Absolutely tantalising, so much so that it can still make my mouth water after all these years.

I was back on 'home turf', and it dawned on me that it was a bit of a trek from the junction to the house. Now I was sceptical about hitchhiking in this area, especially since the general motto was "where everybody knows your name" aka. you can jump into a car, and it wouldn't matter because everyone always knows someone through someone.

Well, it worked. Everyone knew the Hummus king. So it was all good. Generally a successful outing, with a tan to prove it.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Israel: Mesmerising Mikhmoret Beach

Accommodation: As I said before, The Resort Hostel is next to the beach, where you can meet amazing people and chill out in the dorms. Off peak it's about 12/13 euros per night and there are even hammocks to laze around in. Rooms are basic, but the whole area is made up of filling 'basic needs'. Not the place if you're looking for an actual beach resort. The nearest transport is a bus stop 50 metres away, but hitchhiking is widely acceptable in this area, as it is a small village.

If you're thinking of becoming a long-term hippy here, this is the place to be. Apparently The Resort has volunteering roles in exchange for accommodation, working 4 hours a day and organising barbeques galore. You need a driving licence and be between 20-30 years old.

Places to see and do: Horse-back riding on the beach at sunset, biking and hiking in the park, kite surfing courses, scuba diving, visiting the marina, or just getting a tan on the beach. There are plenty of beach bars and restaurants, which is just something you have to do when you're on holiday.

Getting to and from Mikhmoret: From Ben Gurion Airport, take the train to Tel Aviv Sevidor Station (Arlozerov terminal), 10 minutes. Then switch to bus number 872/852 on the northbound, 30 minutes. Get off at (Beit Yanai) Yanai Interchange. Or from Tel Aviv's central bus station, same buses to the same junction via Egged bus company. It's only about £3!

Transport: It's pretty walkable, but you can hitchhike in some cases - always take caution!

I arrived at Tel Aviv in some godforsaken hour in the morning, which is what happens when you try scrimp on flights. It was pitch black outside the airport, after being ushered out by angry security men. I was greeted by my lovely friend and her partner, so I automatically felt reassured.

Now Mikhmoret is outside of Tel Aviv, almost 24 miles away and closer to Netanya. It is an absolutely tiny fishing village with apparently just over 1,100 people living in the beach town.

The moshav (Israeli settlement) was founded in 1945 by demobilised soldiers from the British Army, and was named Mikhmoret due to the profession of many of the founders being fishing. And now a lot of young ex-Israeli army members live there as hippies and teachers of the local school.

So after a tiring flight and restless night, I awoke to the sounds of the sea hitting the sandy shores, and the smell of hummus!!

Cliche as it sounds, the first sensory experience had to consist of the Levantine (Middle Eastern) cuisine in all of its glory. My friend's partner happened to be a master Hummus creator, and was taking part in an annual competition to see who could make the best one.

So why is Hummus such a major fad in the Middle East? Well, it isn't just a trend, a significant reason for the popularity of hummus in Israel is the fact that it is made from ingredients that, following Kashrut (Jewish dietary laws), can be combined with both meat and dairy meals. For Palestinians, hummus has long been a staple food, all of the ingredients in hummus are easily found in Palestinian gardens, farms and markets, thus adding to the availability and popularity of the dish.

As one of my friend's partner's groupies, I aided by tasting the concoctions as well as drawing a makeshift banner with 'Make Hummus not Hamas' as the main motto.

We set up at a small school adjacent to the beach, and paced about with the poster, urging fellow Hummus eaters to try some of his mix.

Now it was the first time I had ever judged a competition. And it certainly was the first time walking around with a pitta bread, dipping it surreptitiously from bowl to bowl around the school courtyard.

And it's true. I had never seen so many varieties of the chickpea-based dip, with chilies, olive oil, lemon garlic, aubergine...the list goes on. After the winner was announced (sadly, my friend's partner lost his championship title) a boogie ensued under the canopy.

It wasn't a bad first morning, and probably a little unusual for a tourist to encounter. But I guess that's the gift having friends living locally.

After this, my friend and I decided to climb along the rocky coast that lines the shores alongside the sandy plains. On the way, we saw groups of young children from the nearby school making their way on boats. The College of Marine Sciences bring a very young, and lively crowd to the village. The older university students (some formerly army recruits) now take on some of the teaching at the school aka  fishing, cycling, kite-surfing, trail hiking - not a bad life is it?

A quick swim in the warm waters was enough for the first day, especially as I wasn't appropriately attired. In the evening, we celebrated with burgers at a local restaurant. No doubt, it is one of those towns where you do need a car, or some sort of transport to get by, as I found out. It was like an island of local eats surrounded by a car park off the motorway.

On the way back, we were greeted by friends. It seems like the best place to catch a chat with someone you will never usually meet. Especially when it comes to religion and politics and the controversial time I had arrived. Several days before, Israeli armed forces fired on flotilla heading towards the Gaza strip. Everyone was under scrutiny, the country was under scrutiny. And as a journalist, my ears and hands were itching to ask questions.

I heard a variation of facts from several sides in the few days that I was there. But I avidly listened, and was sympathetic to what I heard. I was painted a very different picture from what the mainstream news had portrayed.

Other days when I wasn't politicking, I would dip my feet in the waters, or read a book while swinging in a hammock. It was the nomadic life that I always dreamed of.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Israel On a Shoestring

I've been meaning to write this blog for a long while, probably because out of all my travels it would be the most obscure place I have been to. 

Never been a big fan of the tourist track, political places seem to be more appealing for me (within limits of course).

The Essentials

First things first, sorting out all of the nooks and crannies of the visit. Believe me, Israel isn't like Europe or South East Asia, so keeping that in mind, organisation is crucial to visiting the country.

So you probably won't do things the way I did it, mostly because I stayed with friends when I was there. However, I will write around it, making sure all the boxes are ticked in order for you to get to the main sites in one piece.

The political situation in Israel makes the country incredibly volatile. You may arrive at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv one day, and see that security are perfectly friendly towards you. At other times, if they get a whiff of suspicion, you may have to hang about for them to 'interrogate' you or simply be rude towards you. 

Border between Israel and Lebanon, Golan Heights
Passport Situation

Due to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian dispute, Afghanistan, Algeria, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen block passports containing stamps or visas from Israel.

You may also have difficulties getting into and/or be refused visas to other Islamic countries, such as Bangladesh, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, etc. 

Sometimes, these countries don't notice that you have a stamp from Israel, or if you're lucky, the Israeli authority may not stamp your passport- in that case, you won't have to worry about visiting other countries. Right now however, it wouldn't be a good idea-so choose your travels wisely. They didn't with mine, and so I had no issues crossing into Indonesia (the largest Islamic country in the world).

If you intend to visit any of these nations, ask immigration to stamp a blank page, rather than your passport, when entering. Note that those countries will also search for Jordanian/Egyptian exit stamps from land borders with Israel and will likewise prohibit your entry if they find one. KEEP YOUR PAPERS SAFE!

All EU states can enter Israel visa-free for up to 3 months. 

If, however, you are suspected of being of Arab descent, Muslim, or a political activist, it is possible that you will be subject to prolonged questioning, searches and/or denied entry.

Getting to and from Israel

Israel's main international airport is Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion International Airport, which is approximately 40km from Jerusalem and 12 km from central Tel Aviv, and serves both cities. 

Cheapest time to fly is between November- March, avoiding peak time summer. I went via Lufthansa which is a pretty reliable airline to travel with. According to, in July 2012, flights were £237 return, which is very cheap for peak time travel. It can easily go up to £400 even with low cost airlines. But local airlines (if you don't mind supporting Israel's government) such as EL AL Israel Airlines usually provide cheaper fares then the big flash ones.

January can get very cold in the high areas, but actually summer is far too hot to appreciate nature in the country. Any other season, gives you a selection of nature's best vistas.  In January, return flights can start from around £148.
Mikhmoret Beach


Right, you may think that the Middle East may be exempt from Europe's extortionate prices, but unfortunately Israel still falls into that trap. It being one of the more developed countries in the region and its strong associations with the West, means that prices can reach the same levels as a Western European country.


I stayed with friends at the initial destination in Mikhmoret Beach (outskirts of Tel Aviv), which isn't the most touristy area. It is filled with hippy Jewish students teaching the way of surfing and yachting on its famous beaches and is famous for being a fishing village. But no doubt, it's a fabulous beach, so if you want to put your feet first in water, than staying in a cabin is a great idea. 

The Resort Hostel is next to the beach, where you can meet amazing people and chill out in the dorms. Off peak it's about 12/13 euros per night and there are even hammocks to laze around in. Rooms are basic, but the whole area is made up of filling 'basic needs'. Not the place if you're looking for an actual beach resort. The nearest transport is a bus stop 50 metres away, but hitchhiking is widely acceptable in this area, as it is a small village.

I used this place as a hub, and that way it wasn't so strenuous lugging around a suitcase to the different cities. 

NOTE: Israel is a pretty small country, you can go across the entirety of it between 5-10 hours, so it's not really worth moving around too much.


Citadel Youth Hostel
I absolutely loved the atmosphere of the Citadel Youth Hostel in Jerusalem. A unique experience staying in what seemed to be a cave with all of the cobble stones in the wall. But the fact that the open rooftop was also utilised as a sleeping space for all those adventurous souls wanting to nap under the stars, just seemed positively quirky (only from May-October). You can watch the sun set on the famous Dome from the top, well worth it really! It's again very basic meant for students (or not even that), so don't expect silk bedsheets.

WARNING: If you have a lot of luggage, finding this place is a bit of a nightmare. The cobble stone pavements make it impossible to carry a trolley around. And it's a little bit out of plain sight. Also, the cave like walls make sleeping quite stuffy.

Places to See

Caesaria Sea Port
I can honestly say 5 days is not enough to see the splendour of Israel. However, in that amount of time, it was well worth seeing: 

  • Caesarea Sea port
  • Visit the Dead Sea
  • Tour of the Old City in Jerusalem
  • Wailing Wall
  • Sea of Galilee
  • Baha'i Gardens in Haifa
  • Golan Heights
  • West Bank (again if you are interested in the political side, it's not a tourist trail)
  • And if you have enough time, definitely see Masada.


I lived on buses in Israel. They have quite an extensive bus route, but it isn't for the faint-hearted! At times, I would keep a phrasebook with me, just in case, and at times I definitely needed it. They are fast and reliable, and a lot cheaper than the West. It's definitely smart to plan well ahead.

The extensive national bus system is run by a public corporation called Egged (pronounced "Eg-ged"), the second-largest bus network in the world. Additionally, a bus company called Dan operates mainly in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area, and other major cities such as Be'er Sheva, check their web site for details. 

Egged, and Dan have English-speaking representatives with nation wide phone numbers. Some other companies are active as well.

I had to hitchhike several times, which seemed like the norm, but choose your areas wisely. You would be downright stupid to do it in the West Bank.

Berlin's best parks

Berlin is not short of parks, and it's incomparable in terms of its foliage. Expect more than flat terrains, with a variation of flora and fauna, and even outdoor parties!

  •  Tempelhofer Park
On first look, you may think who the hell would want to sit on an airport runway? Well, never fear, it is actually an abandoned airport, which makes it all the more unique. This space is a haven for skaters, bikers, roller-bladers, anything with wheels. Just think, there were 40 inch tyres going at 150mph at one time!

Now there are people in stripy aprons cooking up a storm with portable barbeques, watching sports on giant screens, wind and kite surfing, and planes still hang around the area! Party revellers like to hang around the area to sweat off a hangover.

Tempelhofer Park 
Platz der Luftbrücke, 12101 Berlin
Phone: +49 302 8018 162
Transport: Bus U Platz der Luftbrücke: 104, 248, N42, N6. U- Bahn Platz der Luftbrücke

  • Mauerpark
(Daniel Antonaccio)
Mauer literally translates into 'wall', which basically is how this park came into existence. It was formerly a part of the Death Strip and Berlin Wall. In a completely different fashion, the park now hosts great music with a mini ampitheatre in the centre and people lugging around instruments and sound boxes in trollies. The Bearpit Kareoke is sadly under threat, as is anything that is free in Berlin, so enjoy it while it lasts. 

The Max Smelling Halle stadium for sports events is also held nearby. And you can stroll around on Sunday to catch all the vintage goodies at the flea market.

Eberswalder Straße/Schwedter Straße, 10437 Berlin

  • Treptower Park
This place is known for its Soviet Union Memorial in south central Berlin, so whilst you're lapping up the foliage, you can soak up a bit of history at the same time. It commemorates the 50,000 Soviet soldiers who fell in the Battle in Berlin in April–May 1945. It was opened four years after the war ended on May 8, 1949.

The coolest bit of Treptower, is the Spreepark section. In the 1960s', it was an entertainment park known as Kulturpark Plänterwald. It has been abandoned, but still has some remains of attractions on-site.

12435 Berlin Treptow
Contact: kontakt@treptowerpark
Phone: +49302 50025
Transport: S-Bahn Bahnhof Treptower Park

  • Tiergarten
Okay, so we covered a bit of Berlin's imperial park on 'Day Two' of the tour. But it's worth reiterating that Tiergarten is the largest park in the city.  Forested areas, lakes, fields of flowers, streamlets, meadows and large stretches of grass turn this part of former West-Berlin into one of the cities most appealing green spaces. 

While I was there, it was also used as the main spot for marathons, the equivalent to Hyde Park in London.

Tierpark Berlin-Friedrichsfelde
Am Tierpark 125, Berlin
Phone: +49 (0) 513 8141      
Transport: Bus 100, 187, 200, or 341. S-Bahn Tiergarten

  • Görlitzer Park
Indoor minigolf Berlin
It's not the prettiest park, but it's not around for that reason. This once railway station (1867-1951) and home to British anarchist art communes, is now a seasonal snowball stadium and a full-time run-down park. It's a bohemian rhapsody for all hippies to enjoy themselves.

And at night, it becomes an ultraviolet underground crazy golf area. Located underneath Café Isa Mitz in Kreuzberg's Görlitzer Park, this mini-golf course has become a favourite word-of-mouth success.

Görlitzer Park
Görlitzer- / Wiener Straße, 10997 Berlin

  • Sanssouci Park, Potsdam
Sanssouci is the name of the former summer palace of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, in Potsdam, just on the outskirts of Berlin. It's like the Versaille of Germany. The baroque-style palace is surrounded by a panoramic vista of the garden. A series of architectural and landscaping masterpieces were built within a single space in 1745 to 1747.

Other highlights include the Chinese tea house with the floor plan in the form of a cloverleaf and the Orangery, with its Raphael Hall. The Evangelical Church of Peace and the dragon house is worth a peek.

Potsdam - Sanssouci palace 
14469 Potsdam
Phone: +49331 96 94 20 2
Transport: Potsdam Park Sanssouci railway station, located on the Berlin-Potsdam-Magdeburg line.

The palace is considered the major work of Rococo architecture in Germany. And surprise, surprise - it's a UNESCO World Heritage Site.