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Thanks for the suggestion! We will keep it in mind!
Toggle Commented Jun 11, 2018 on 6 Highlights from 6 days in Kyoto at Westwards
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On a beautiful mid-week day in May, we didn't think we would need a reservation for two people – but at 18.30 it was already difficult to get a seat on the pleasant terrace of the Vietnamese Restaurant Con Tho, and half of the tables in the restaurant were also already occupied. The vegetarian Vietnamese restaurant seems to be quite popular, and rightly so, it turns out. The setting is very nice, with both the terrace pleasant enough in spite of ... Continue reading
Posted Jun 3, 2018 at Westwards
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If you visit Kyoto for the first time, by all means visit the must-sees! Places like Kinkakuji, Kiyomizu, Sanjusangendo or Fushimi Inari Shrine are spectacular and worth seeing even if everybody else is visiting them, too. And yes, it will be very crowded. But this post is about some off-the-beaten path highlights we discovered during 6 days we spent in Japan’s ancient capital Kyoto earlier this spring. ---The Gardens at the Taizo-in Tempel --- Several pleasant dry gardens with unusual round waves of gravel around stones and weeping cherry trees, yet more gardens with moss and stone lanterns, small ponds and a pagoda … Matcha Parfait at Eirakuya … Stone fellows at the Sekihôji Temple … Continue reading
Posted May 1, 2018 at Westwards
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Broad visitor pathways lead up to the reconstructed entrance gate of Gongsanseong fortress in Gongju, South Korea, and then up and down in steep delightful curves over the hills that make up the ancient fortress. In its heyday in the 5th and 6th century AD, Gongsanseong Fortress was the seat of power of the Baekje (Paekche) government, one of the big early Korean states. On a hot and humid summer day, we are glad that we have brought folding fans for this visit of the Baekje ruins inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list since 2015. And in spite of the summer heat, we are keen to explore the Baekje remains since ... Continue reading
Posted Apr 12, 2018 at Westwards
Oh, you were lucky! But of course it's only reasonable that many people want to see this place...
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It is raining hard, and we are wondering whether it is really worth it: At first, a visit to the fabled palaces of Sintra seemed perfect to spend a 12-hour layover at Lisbon Airport, on the way between West Africa and Berlin – after all, UNESCO-designated Sintra is only about an hour away from the airport. But meanwhile, we have read KemKem's post on overtourism in Sintra, and combined with the bad weather (and our clothing situation, think "Sandals and T-Shirts") we are having second thoughts. On the other hand, the crowds shouldn't be such a problem on a rainy winter day? When we arrive just after 9 am at Sintra station, the rain has stopped for the time being, but the puddles on the street ... Continue reading
Posted Mar 25, 2018 at Westwards
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“The snakes are not bad, they do no harm” - the Vodoo adept repeats. And indeed – although Natascha was quite nervous before our visit to the Python temple in Ouidah, she even likes the soft snakes curling around her arms. In February we spent around two weeks traveling through Benin and found it a calm, friendly, and quite hassle-free country. Even the children shouting at the sight of rare Whites (yovo), without fail: „Yovo yovo, Bon Soir, yovo yovo, Bon Soir! Ça va bien, merci!“, were hilarious more than annoying. One evening, in Abomey, we stand behind the music troupe and watch the main square in front of the temple. Voodoo dignitaries of different temples and orders are seated in front of us, and it is towards them that ... Continue reading
Posted Mar 12, 2018 at Westwards
The explanation of the guide was in French - not our mother tongue. So, that made things a bit complicated.
No matter how your frame of mind is before your visit - it will be disturbed after it! We knew, but never actively thought about the fact that it were actually other tribes that sold the slaves in most cases...they had good guides at all these places! In Togo only in French though...
Yes, roads are bad in Benin, Togo and Burkina Faso. Are they any better in Nigeria, you think? We liked Benin most of the three countries - friendly people, good food and also enough infrastructure for some sightseeing!
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Red dust is blowing in through the open windows of our ramshackle car when we overtake the minibus. It is the only other vehicle we encounter on the piste from Gaoua to Loropeni in South-western Burkina Faso. It may be going all the way to Banfora – presumably one bus per day – and we are glad for once that we decided not to visit the UNESCO-designated ruins of Loropeni by public transport but have splashed out on a taxi for the day. A few kilometres behind the village of Loropeni, we turn into a dirt track where a local guide joins us to collect the fee and show us around the ruins … Continue reading
Posted Mar 4, 2018 at Westwards
Yes, it is. Hopefully they can raise enough money in Agbodrafo/ Togo to restore the house and get it listed as UNESCO site!
If you travel through West Africa you will be confronted with the history of the slave trade in many places. Of course everybody knows about this sad chapter of history, but it is different to see the places with your own eyes.
I hope you wanted to say "not forget". West Africa is an interesting place to travel and not many tourists go there....
Ja, und Benin war überhaupt sehr stressfrei und leicht zu bereisen.
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A small group of hippos is resting in the water on the opposite shore of the small lake in the Pendjari National Park in Benin, their nostrils flaring open, ears twitching occasionally, annoyed with insects. They seem to be standing very close to each other, like in a bathtub slightly too small for such a weighty group of bathing guests. ... We are in the core area of one of West Africa's best and most well-known National Parks: Pendjari National Park, in Northern Benin, covers an area of 2755 square kilometers and is home to lions, leopards, and cheetahs, the largest population of elephants in West Africa, and numerous rare and threatened species. Together with two nearby National Parks of Niger and Burkina Faso it has been inscribed on the UNESCO list as a World Natural Heritage site. We had considered a two-day excursion to the Pendjari Park in order to ... Continue reading
Posted Feb 19, 2018 at Westwards
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A tall black man in a fluttering white garment is folding his hands in prayer, then sweeping them over his face. He stands still for a while looking out over the sea from the back corridor of the historic house on the Île de Gorée in Senegal, from the “House of Slaves”. Next to him someone is unwrapping a baguette sandwich. The Île de Gorée is a tiny island not far from Senegal 's capital, Dakar. Today, the small island measuring only 300 by 500 m has a population of about thousand people, but in the 17th and 18th century, at the height of the slave trade, as many as 5000 would have lived in the confined space … Some years after our visit to the Île de Gorée in Senegal, we are back in West Africa but on its southern coast – what used to be called the slave coast. The remains of a similar slave trader's house, the Woold House (maison des esclaves), have been rediscovered in Agbodrafo, a ... Continue reading
Posted Feb 7, 2018 at Westwards
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El Hierro, the smallest, newest and westernmost of the Canary Islands is far off from Europe and yet a part of Spain: We had seen pictures of the spectacular cloud forest of El Hierro at the Tourism Fair in Berlin (ITB) and wanted to explore it ever since. The island has only about 10,000 inhabitants and very little tourism and is famous for its falling fogs, people had assured us, but we didn't really know what to expect. ***Day 1: La Caleta – somewhere behind San Andres, 17,2 km, 1300 m up.*** We have started our hike on the coast in La Caleta, not far from the harbour. The long distance trail GR 131 crosses the whole island, so we climb up into the highland between cacti, huge agaves and dry stone walls. Up on the mountains, clouds are closing in, and the higher we get ... Continue reading
Posted Jan 21, 2018 at Westwards
Dear Kemkem, thanks for your kind words. If you have any questions about Japan, just ask. And we are very much looking forward to West Africa (and to escape the European cold!). We definitely will post about the trip. We could not fit in Nigeria this time though...
Toggle Commented Dec 31, 2017 on Happy 2018 – Year of the dog at Westwards
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We wish you all a joyous New Year and a very happy 2018! We are looking back on a year 2017 both busy and sad. Apart from brief trips to Barcelona and Copenhagen at the beginning of the year, we spent several months in Japan updating guide books, but we could also add a short visit to South Korea. In summer, we had planned a 10 day hike along the Peaks of the Balkans but had to return to Germany early to attend to Natascha's sister who had been hospitalised and subsequently, and very quickly, died of ALS. This death also dominated the rest of our year, although we had more writing work to do and Natascha did tour guiding in Central Asia and in Japan in autumn. In October and November we managed to fit in a bit of hiking and climbing in Bavaria, on El Hierro and Tenerife. Our most exciting professional achievement ... Continue reading
Posted Dec 28, 2017 at Westwards
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"Year 5 of Meiji", reads the keystone above the entrance of the Tomioka Silk Mill: The silk spinning factory of Tomioka was built in 1872, in the fifth year of Japan's sudden turnaround towards a modern industrialised state under Emperor Meiji. It was not only one of the first modern factories in Japan, but is also a prime example for the sharp growth of light industry in Japan in the following decades. Mr. Kondo … points out the red bricks of the façade that look very western for a country that had, until the late 1860s, tried to suppress and control any contact with the Western world and continued its practically mediaeval lifestyle. "At the time of the founding of the Tomioka Silk Mill, they didn't have cement yet in Japan", Mr Kondo explains: The bricks are only glued together with lime mortar and not strong enough to hold the roof – the building uses a traditional Japanese timber frame construction instead. The decision, in 1868, to embrace Western life and technology, was sudden. The change of government … Continue reading
Posted Dec 19, 2017 at Westwards
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Stepping out of the forest after a few hours of hiking, we see the church on a low hill across an expanse of grassland. The immensely famous Pilgrimage church of Wies is not particularly large – the nave just 30 m long – but standing rather isolated … About a dozen people are walking up the well-maintained path to the UNESCO-protected Pilgrimage church of Wies. Another 30 or 40 visitors are inside, looking up at the frescoes and putti and taking photos. That's more visitors than most churches in Bavaria see during Sunday mass, but the Pilgrimage church, the Wieskirche, can take in a few hundred. When the peasant woman Maria Lori in 1738 noticed tears coming out of a very life-like image of the flagellated Christ in her room, the miracle attracted crowds to see the sculpture. The statue had been discarded a few years earlier by church authorities because they deemed the image too gruesome for the general population! Soon a chapel was built ... Continue reading
Posted Dec 6, 2017 at Westwards
Thanks! There are actually several more of these Late-Byzantine churches in Kosovo, and we were planning to see a few more en route to the Peaks of the Balkans trail (but had to cut the trip short for this time).
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"Gračanica" – calls the bus conductor waving in our direction. Only one other passenger gets off in the quiet Kosovan village of Gračanica, just south of the capital Pristina. A bit further on, the road leads to a tall and sturdy-looking gate. This must be the Christian monastery of Gračanica - but for a church the whole place looks very defensive and closed-off. … In the middle of a wide lawn stands a small square building with several metal cupolas. With its tall lattice windows and the light-coloured bricks it fits more with our imagination of Russian churches: A relatively modern church, we think at first, or possibly Tsarist, 19th century… Is this the UNESCO world heritage church we have come to see? But once we peer inside the narthex it becomes obvious that we are in the right place - patinated frescoes of saints and martyrs all over. Not a single wall that has gone undecorated, and this in a typical Orthodox church building with many interior walls, corridors and arches, and therefore a lot of wall space to cover with frescoes. Deeper inside the church … Continue reading
Posted Nov 21, 2017 at Westwards