Posts Tagged With: beer
Yin and Yang are back with their travels. With Young, in tow. They celebrated Young’s second birthday in Jan 2018 (ah, time flies) and and a month later flew to Eastern Europe, thriftlessly paying for a third-seat ticket. On the plus side, toddler was kicking the seat in front rather than his parents’ faces and legs. Oh oops.
But more on toddler tantrums later. Lets focus on how a toddler wrote the narrative on where to travel.
We looked up Google maps and contemplated every place from Muscat to Mexico. True story. Muscat was too near, Mexico was too far (23 hours flight with child = disaster). And in between were places that were too cold, too hot, too expensive, too unsafe.…you get the drift.
After a few weeks that resulted in extra grey hairs (all mine, of course) and in almost zeroing in a on a weekend ‘staycation’ at the nearby Ras-al-khaimah hotel, we applied for a Slovakian visa. The Austrian embassy (in the absence of a Slovakian one in the UAE) stuck its nose up and kept us on the edge before stamping us a green signal to travel.
The average day temperature in Slovakia was predicted at 1 deg C. Grey-haired Yang was excited for herself yet fearful for her child and drove Yin crazy about the need to stock up baggage solely with baby woollens. Better sense finally prevailed and vacation day arrived.
And so Slovakia, we went. In fact, Slovakia, Austria and the Czech Republic.
We flew into Bratislava, Slovakia’s capital and spent 3 nights exploring the old town, sampling local brews and importantly, enjoying our cheap and cheerful Slovakian-decored apartment.
We then took a train into Vienna and spent another 3 nights there. The capital city snowed us over, quite literally, and with a night to spare before heading back to Bratislava (for our return flight), on a whim, we took a 90-min bus ride to the student town of Brno in the Czech Republic.
The highlights of our 8-day vacation was:
Lots and lots of it, being that time of the year. And coming from the desert, we absolutely loved it! More importantly, the boy was fascinated by the whiteness and much to our relief returned unscathed, despite an evening out in heavy snowfall.
As a lot of travellers will vouch, most European cities are best experienced through walking. Both of us love walking and that just made everything easier. It also helped in losing considerable calories being gained steadily through beer consumption.
- Picking up shoes
Whilst we walked, our boy was latched on to a stroller. The shoes being a wee too big for his feet, he used every opportunity to fling them both on to the cobbled streets. More calories were lost before we decided to release his feet and double-sock him. Don’t you call me paranoid; we were in sub zero centigrades, mind you.
- Using two online disrupters
That is, Airbnb and Uber.
We used Airbnb for booking our stay in all three cities and stayed in apartments owned by locals. Great decision and while I’m conscious that it may not work for all cities across the world, give mainstream hotels a miss and try this when holidaying in Europe.
Uber was really cheap in Bratislava and we used it to our advantage for longer distances and where we didn’t have to worry about taking strollers up and down an underground tube.
The obvious highlight. Cheaper than water in supermarkets!
Where time stopped still.
My closest comparison to this sleepy town is the Dalhousie trip I made five years ago.
The August weather of Yerevan was getting a little too hot to be out and about so we weighed our options and decided to drive up to the cooler climes of Dilijan, a little town about an hour from the capital.
En route, we stopped at Lake Sevan. The dad took charge of entertaining the boy by the waters and I made a short trek up to Church Sevanastek.
The route upward was dotted with pomegranate trees. Pomegranate trees galore!! (If you didnt already know, seeing fruits on trees make me go berserk). These fruits are symbolic to Armenians and every souvenir shop I’d come across had something and everything on pomegranates!
Church Sevanastek is archaical and beautiful but what makes it stunning is it’s position atop the hill. It is situated amidst a lake and over time, has risen over. The view from the church was incredible, to say the least, despite the hot sun that hovered over me. I can’t imagine how much more pleasing it would be in cooler weather.
I made it to base in 27 minutes. Yes, I timed it- and time management is essential when a toddler is part of the travel picture. We eventually reached Dilijan late afternoon and checked into, what we realised much later, the popular Tufenkian Heritage Hotel.
Now I don’t mean to advertise a hotel but our Tufenkian stay in Yerevan was so pleasant that we looked up online and saw that their presence in Dilijan so made an impromptu booking the day before heading there. What we didn’t realise is Tufenkian Dilijan is a heritage hotel – that is, the historical site was bought over by business magnate James Tufenkian and restored into a hospitality area. We were put on the ground floor and over our first evening, window-watched tons of passing tourists stopping to take pics of our building.
With a restless 18 month in tow, Dilijan may just be the place to relax with a pint of Dilijan (side note: cheap and cheerful)! However, if you are looking for a lot more activity, I’d suggest staying put at Yerevan. The town had nothing much to offer but we spent a couple of hours driving up to Park Dilijan – a nice place to chill, perhaps even do some adventure sports if you are around earlier in the day. I took a walk to the town square one late evening to search for the nearest grocery store but hurried back as it was fairly deserted despite being a weekend (I would add though that seems like a pretty safe place).
On Day 2 of Dilijan, we asked to move to the first floor of the hotel which had a balcony and a better view. Sitting out, we were witness to an ‘Armenian pop video’ shoot taking place in front of our hotel! With at least 25 retakes of the song, it still rings in my head.
The town also me an opportunity to savour two lovely Armenian dishes – Borani, a pumpkin-chickpea soup and Gata, a warm pastry served with a scoop of yougurt. Delicioussss, to say the least.
As I look back, Dilijan was a great place to relax and bond as a family.