Small towns with incredible history

Here is a list of 7 small towns in Europe with incredible history. Towns that definitely is worth travelling for. Small towns that have been former capitals at some point. As always, I only write about places that I have visited myself, so these seven towns get my warmest recommendation.

1. Cetinje, Montenegro

Cetinje is a small town of around 14,000 people, but it is the very heart of Montenegrin culture and identity. All Montenegrins will tell you “a real Montenegrin” comes from Cetinje. Walking down it’s streets and sitting at it’s cafes, discussing culture, history and the country’s future, will give you the very essence of what Montenegro is.

It is the former capital, and here you find royal graves, monasteries, a palace, Ottoman ruins and so much more. The history of the Montenegrin kings is long and eventful. Because Montenegrin are a very proud people, you will start to learn how 700 year old events still have an influence on the culture and mentality to this day.

This is my favorite town in Europe.

2. Jelling, Denmark

In the outskirts of the city of Vejle, you find the small town of Jelling with only 3500 inhabitants. This is no ordinary small Danish town though. This is the former viking capital, and the home of king Harald Bluetooth, the old Danish viking king, who was the first to embrace Christianity.

In this town you will see the Jelling Stones, where he declares the new state religion. There is also a very interesting free museum, where you can learn about his motives for converting to Christianity. How he wanted to modernize Denmark, and how his name became synonymous with a new widespread technology, we all use every day.

3. Bayeux, France

With only 13,000 people, the town of Bayeux is not so big, however it sees a lot of visitors. It once was the capital of one of the Celtic tribes living in the area during the Roman Empire, however, it’s importance today comes from the Bayeux Tapestry that depicts the Norman invasion of England. The province of Normandy, where Bayeux is located, has a very tumultuous history with viking invasions, Frankish and Celtic wars, and wars with England. Having the story told by an audio guide while you slowly walk around the tapestry, taking in the history picture for picture, is one of the most educational and entertaining experiences a museum can give. You definitely will feel like part of the story.

Besides the tapestry, the town is beautiful with a cathedral in the city center. The city of Caen is not far from there either and is definitely also a place worth visiting.

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4. Gniezno, Poland

Going a little bigger with 68,000 inhabitants, Gniezno is one of those rarely visited towns in Poland despite it being the very foundation of the country.

Legend has it, that a long long time ago in a distant land, 3 brothers went travelling in unknown land. They were 3 princes: Lech, Czech and Rus, all descendant from Janus, the grand grandson of Noah. After a while the three brothers decided to split up. Rus went East, Czech travelled West, and the eldest of them, Lech, travelled North.

Rus founded Russia. Czech founded Czechia, and Lech founded Poland. It is said, that he was hunting for food in an area guarded by a big white eagle. Lech found this bird magnificent, he therefore attempted to steal one of it’s eggs to train it himself. The prince tried to scare the mother eagle away, but nothing worked and it all turned into a bloody fight between the two. After seeing the eagle protecting her eggs despite her white feathers being stained with blood, Lech felt shame and pulled back.

He made the white eagle the symbol of Poland, for it’s bravery and fight for freedom. And just near this nest, he founded the city of Gniezno and made it his capital.

5. Krujë, Albania

Kruje is one of the most beautiful towns in Europe with cobbled streets with different historical symbols and in the Albanian colors. It was the former capital of the Kingdom of Albania. The main attractions is the Skanderbeg museum, which is a beautiful castle that depict the history of Albania when it was fighting the Ottomans. Besides the castle and the beautiful streets, the town also has a an interesting Bazar, a mosque and plenty of medieval architecture.

The are is quite mountainous and offer some beautiful landscapes getting in and out of the town. The town houses 59,000 inhabitants.

6. Toledo, Spain

Toledo is the largest of these towns with 84,000 people. However, it is also the one with most history. It has been the capital of many eras. It was a Muslim capital during the Toledo Taifa kingdom, then a center piece in the conquest of Spain by the kingdom of Leon and Castille. Today, remains of both eras can be seen and even a Jewish quarter has survived after the genocide against Jews and Muslims during the Inquisition. The town also houses the very most impressive catholic cathedral in my opinion.

It is a true throwback in time to visit this town, and best thing is: It is just a small day trip from Madrid.

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7. Kalmar, Sweden

While this one has not really been a true capital, the city of Kalmar was the place where it was decided that Denmark, Norway and Sweden (with Finland, Iceland and Greenland under the same rule), should unite into one major political power. It was the Queen of Denmark, Margrethe I, who made this possible. For a short period in history, she was the most powerful woman in Europe ruling an empire that was half the size of the rest of Europe.

The unification happened in the Castle of Kalmar, which is a beautiful sight in the city center. The city has other attractions, a beautiful town, churches, lakes and a city hall. With a population of 36,000 people, this might be one of the most interesting towns in Sweden.

 

3 practical travel advice no one else will tell you

You always hear the same general travel advice in every travel blog out there. Here are 3 specific and very simple travel advices for what to when travelling, that I have learned and applied personally, that has enriched my travel experience significantly. So without further ado, here you have 3 advices you won’t hear from anyone else:

  1. Visit universities
    Have you ever been in a city a little longer than it took to do all the sightseeing you could find in your travel handbook? I can most certainly tell you, that there is always more to see in every city. Even the most detailed travel blog or handbook won’t capture it all. But how would you know coming as a foreigner, not knowing much about the ins and outs of the city?What I often do, when I find myself in such situation, is to visit a university. Universities are the most underrated tourist attractions at all. I have personally visited several universities in more than 10 countries, from Sudan to Uzbekistan to Hong Kong.

    Here are reasons why it is always worth visiting a university in the country you are in:

    1. You will get a better understanding of the future of the country, watching the youth interact with each other, studying hard or even partying. Ear drop on conversations, specially if you find the campus of the political sciences. Or walk around inside the buildings reading the scientific posters that the students have hung up. If you have a scientific background yourself, you might understand the level of education, the level of innovation and what kind of ideas will shape the future.
    2. There is always someone who speaks English there. Specially if you are in a country where you understand almost nothing because of the language barrier, the chances of meeting someone who speaks your language here is much higher. If not local students, then foreign students or exchange students. You will also find people from all faiths and continents in most universities. Maybe even someone from your own country, who lives there.
    3. There is ALWAYS a very affordable cafeteria there, that you might benefit from.
    4. You can always blend in. It doesn’t matter your age. You can be a undergrad student, you could be doing a PhD or even be a professor. You just walk around in confidence there,  and merge in the atmosphere as were you a local.

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      A university in Tokyo, Japan
  2. Read local memes
    This is a funny way to way to learn the deep and complex structures of a country and it’s relation to their neighbors. Or even their view on other countries. You can read all the news articles and essays about a country as you want, but the true mechanisms of the local’s mentality is more apparent in something as simple as a meme, rather than a 5 page analysis of the cultural aspects of a country.It is also a much more fun and quick way to learn some things, that you won’t be able to find in analysis reports or news, because of the political correctness that those have to adhere to. Good memes are rarely politically correct. Sometimes they even can be insulting or completely racists, but they will tell you the true mentality of some of the people there.

    So go online, on Facebook or Instagram and search for a country specific meme page. It might take you a bit long to find. Prepare yourself to even opening google translate, to translate some of the memes. You will get more insight by those memes that are not translated to English.

    Finally, if you know a local from the area, you might ask him or her to explain the memes that you do not understand or do not find funny. Yes – it might develop into a proper scientific research about memes, but believe me you will laugh most of the time. I can specially recommend memes from the Balkan region, those are clearly the most hilarious.

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    One gif-meme from the Balkans
  3. Book a room for 2 people, even if you travel alone
    I often travel alone, and I have found out that hotels lately uses environmental concerns as an excuse to give a worse service regarding cleaning. Today, many hotels do not change the towels every day, even if you throw them on the floor.When you travel alone and book a room, you are often left with the option to book a room for 2 people anyway, as hotels rarely have a single room. The price is the same – you do not pay more if you were 2 people travelling together for the same room. So when I book such a room, I put down 2 guests to ensure that they prepare the room with twice as many towels.

    There is a problem with this approach, as some cities will impose taxes that has to be paid per person. So when you show up, you have to tell the hotel, that you are only 1 person coming to stay there to avoid paying double taxes.

So that was all for now, I hope you can use and benefit from those advice as I do! Remember, travelling is all about learning and understanding the world. Not just what fits into your own world view, so dig deep into it and get fascinated by it, even if it is far from your own believe system or values. But always, keep your integrity while travelling!

Top 10 Muslim Festivals to Experience

Coming back from an adventurous trip to Iraq, I thought about how interesting religious festivals actually are. Some of the best travel experiences I have ever had, were combined with the observation of different old festivals with roots in world religions. I have previously made a list of Christian Festivals to experience, check that list out.

This list contains the name of the top 10 most fascinating Muslim festivals around the world, that would be great to experience in person together with the year 2020 happening dates.

  1. Hajj
    Place to be: Mecca, Saudi Arabia
    Time to be next year: July 28, 2020
    This one is undisputedly the most famous and important festival of the year in the Islamic world. Every Muslim is required to do a pilgrimage to Mecca once in his or hers lifetime. The pilgrimage consists of few rituals that traces back to Abraham who built the Kaaba, which is the most holy building in Islam.Every year millions of Muslims from all kinds of nations and races gather here, strip themselves of all symbols of status, wealth and pride and they put on the same white garments. All as one they walk around the Kaaba seven times, they face while praying in a circle and they perform all kinds of other interesting rituals and prayers that makes them forget all about their earthly desires, their race and nation and just feel one with their fellow believers.Unfortunately, this festival is closed for non-muslims, so only a muslim (traveller) will be able to witness it in person. However, you can enjoy the rest of the festivals on this list.
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  2. Mawlid
    Place to be: Khartoum, Sudan
    Time to be next year: October 28, 2020

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    Celebrating the Mawlid in Sudan – Personal trip, 2018

    The mawlid is the celebration of the birthday of Prophet Muhammad. This festival is celebrated all over the muslim world, officially except of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, where it is forbidden, however, even there you can experience people celebrating it despite the law. However, if you want the best of all festivals, you should visit a strong Sufi dominated area. I can strongly recommend the Khalifa House Square in Khartoum. On the day, you will see Sudanese from all over the country arriving by foot and putting up a great festival in this square with lots of songs, dances, food and religious speeches. Every Sufi Tarika (Meaning “way of practice”) have their own tent and their own way of celebrating. Walk from place to place and participate in the event.
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  3. Ashura and Arbaeen
    Place to be: Karbalaa, Iraq
    Time to be next year: August 28 and October 7, 2020

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    Arbaeen 2019 – Personal trip to Iraq

    Ashura and Arbaeen are two very connected ceremonies, so I have gathered them together here. Ashura commemorate the events of The Battle of Karbalaa in 685 AD, where the family of Prophet Muhammad was brutally murdered and captured. During 10 days up to the day of Ashura, the whole city is filled with mourning pilgrims crying and beating themselves over this terrible event, while poems and slogans are shouted all over the city and even plays are performed. It all ends with a run towards the shrine of Hussein, the grandson of prophet Muhammad.
    The Arbaeen is a similar but much larger (and more calm) event, that happens 40 days after Ashura. This event commemorate the day, when the remaining family of Hussein finally came back to Karbalaa to mourn their dead. Up til the day of Arbaeen pilgrims from all over the country walk from their cities to Karbalaa to pay their respect. The Arbaeen is the largest annual peaceful gathering in the world with more than 20 million attendees every year.

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  4. Mela Chiraghan (festival of lamps)
    Place to be: Lahore, Pakistan
    Time to be next year: March 28, 2020
    This celebration marks the death day of another Hussein, namely the sufi poet Shah Hussein. He was such a beloved character by everyone from all casts and religions in Pakistan, and every year the whole citizens of Lahore decorate their houses with different lights and oil lamps, making a beautiful scenery.
    The main festivities happen around Shah Hussein’s shrine. Here free food is distributed and people from all over the country come to light up candles, lamps and lay flowers. The climax is the ignition of the large bonfire, where people would throw in all kinds of cotton lamps and candles making wishes. The bonfire will go on for 3 full days.
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  5. Perang Topat
    Place to be: Lombok, Indonesia
    Time to be next year: November, 2020
    There is a holy place in Lombok for both muslims and hindu. The Pura Lingsar shrines house the combined Muslim and Hindu autumn festival. The festival is also called the Rice War between Muslims and Hindus. A very peaceful kinda war though. It all starts after both religious groups have finished their prayers in the temple. Time of the day: Just after the muslim afternoon prayer (Asr-prayer).
    Both sides of the war will gather in formations on each side of their temple wearing tradition clothes and arming themselves with rice wrapped in leaves. After a speech and some festivities, both sides start throwing the rice at each other. They then engage in a joyful and friendly fight with rice and laughter will fill the temple site. It is truly a celebration of harmony and peace between two religions who live side by side.
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  6. Chechen Zikr
    Place to be: Grozny, Russia
    Time to be next year: Any Thursday or Friday, but best at major Islamic holidays.
    The distinct Chechen Zikr is a one of the most fascinating Sufi ceremonies in the world. The circular dances, the rhythm, stamping and the prayers are simply so hypnotizing that just by observing it you can induce in a trance. The Zikr was in danger of being extinct due to atheistic rule enforcement by the Soviet/Russian authorities, who sees these ceremonies as a threat to them. Also Saudi Arabian Wahabi groups have several times attacked those Sufi orders. Now however, the Chechen Zikr is facing a renaissance and can be witnessed many places in Grozny, also in the Akhmad Kadyrov Mosque. Try to visit during the Islamic Ramadan, Eid or Mawlid to catch a larger gathering of worshipers performing this ritual.
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  7. Fez Festival of World Sacret Music
    Place to be: Fez, Morocco
    Time to be next year: June 12, 2020
    This is maybe the most modern festival on the list as it in 2020 will only be the 26th edition. Here religious (mainly Muslims but also from other faiths) musicians from all over the world perform religious songs. You can find famous artists like Sami Yusuf, local musicians, Sufi orderes peforming and artists from all over the world like Iran, Spain and Scotland also attend and perform. It is a bridge between the Muslim faith and other religions build with the love of music and art.
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  8. Bishwa Ijtema, Dhaka
    Place to be: Dhaka, Bangladesh
    Time to be next year: January 10, 2020
    Directly translated to “World Conference”, this is truly an international Muslim gathering with over 5 million participants every year, making it another of the largest annual gatherings in the world. The small suburb city, Tongi, the streets will be filled with people praying all together as one. Not only the streets but also the rooftops and basically everywhere is occupied by worshipers praying for 3 days, reciting Quran and having preaches about the meaning of the Quranic verses. The final congregational prayer on the last day will be for wishing for world peace.
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  9. Durbar Festival
    Place to be: Kano, Nigeria
    Time to be next year: May 23 and July 30

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    Horseman at the Durbar Festival (Source: Andy Waite, Wikipedia Commons)

    This is one of the most interesting festivals of all. It takes place in the former Kano Emirate, that is today a part of Nigeria. It is basically a ceremony that happens on important occasions, most certain to happen during the Muslims Eid Holidays. The city of Kano still have the Palace of the Emir called Gidan Rumfa, and he and his family still lives in it. Every Eid-ul-Fitr or Eid-ul-Adha he will wear the traditional medieval clothes and ride on his horse with his men out in the city. He and his men will parade the city, there will be music, prayers and rituals on horseback.
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  10. Tabuik
    Place to be: Pariaman, Sumatra, Indonesia
    Time to be next year: August 20, 2020

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    Tabuik ceremony (Source: Wikipedia)

    This festival is very closely connected to the Ashura and Arbaeen, as it also commemorate the Battle of Karbalaa and Imam Hussein’s sacrifice for the religion. This ceremony however is very different in execution, as it is held by predominately Sunni Indonesian Muslims rather than Shia Iraqi ones. Here they prepare tall funeral biers made of bamboo and send them into the sea. Then people would swim after them. The whole festival is filled with sport activities like swimming and kite running and also plays are performed.

Besides these 10 Muslim festivals, there are hundreds of others all over the world that you can enjoy. In addition, being invited to a traditional Iftar during Ramadan might also be an experience you want to have. If you find it difficult to visit some of these countries, you can find very similar events in more accessible locations. Might even be in your local mosque in your own non-Muslim country. Muslims are in general very welcoming and would be happy if you showed interest in their traditions, so do not be shy to go and ask.

Unknown sightseeing in Copenhagen: 25 places off the beaten path

Visiting Copenhagen for 2-3 days, you will be busy enjoying the fairy tale city’s most known landmarks. Being it visiting a cafe in the famous Nyhavn area, with all the colored houses or getting your adrenalin up at Tivoli.

There are lots of things to do in Copenhagen, and if you are efficient, you can do them all in 3 days. Maybe you need a week if you slow down and take it all in. However, if you decide to spend more than a week in Copenhagen, here are 25 hidden gems to chose from for unique and quirky experiences in this fairytale city.

Living in Copenhagen, you will start to realize that there is not much to do in this city except of the landmarks. Denmark is one of the flattest countries in the world, and thus have only very few interesting hiking trails. The city has many beautiful parks, but you need to go outside the city for good forest walks or a nice beach in the rare hot summer days.

Luckily, Copenhagen is located on a small island measuring 100 km wide and 130 km long which means there are plenty of options to find beautiful good beaches and harbors. The city is located in the far east of the country and connected directly to Sweden by a bridge. The reason is, that Denmark used to own the southern parts of Sweden; Skåne, Halland and Blekinge, which back then, would have located the capital in the middle of the kingdom. The island is also connected to the rest of Denmark via a bridge on the west side, which makes it even easier to make interesting day trips around the country and into Sweden.

The list composes 25 secret places I found, that only Danish people know about with a guide to how to get there, what you can expect to see and how to get the best instagrammable shots of them. The list compose both places inside the city, in it’s suburbs and small day trips from the city. They are all listed in relation to distance from Copenhagen city center:

1. Glyptoteket (600 m)

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The inside of Glyptoteket is beautiful and one of the only places in Denmark, you can find palm trees!

If you have been in Copenhagen for a few days, you might have visited the national museum. Carlsberg’s Glyptotek is not to miss though if you got extra time. This used to be the personal collection of the son of the founder of the Carlsberg Brewery. It has antiques from all over the world. Most noticable is his collection of roman figures, a nasothek, a gallary and the egyptian and nubian artifacts.

Practical info: It is free on Tuesdays, so go on a Tuesday! Otherwise it is 115 DKK (17 USD)

How to get there: It is located in the middle of the city. You can walk to it from the central station (Hovedbanegården).

2. Bastard Cafe (850 m)

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The cafe has an amazing atmosphere

One of the best board game cafe’s in the world, this cafe has all the nerdy board games you can ever imagine. Go there on a weekday, cause it is very crowded in weekends and enjoy the atmosphere even if you are not into boardgames. The place is full of international nerds and hipsters having the best time of their youth. Try one of their  easy “free to play” board games and have one of the Game Guru’s help you out with the rules. I can recommend simple games like Patchwork, Ticket to Ride or maybe one of the funnier games like Cards Against Humanity.

Practical info: This is a place to go if you are travelling 2 or more people, as it will be hard to find another group of friends to join for a game. But if you are very outgoing, try your luck, people are very friendly there.

There is one wall with free games, but borrowing any of the other games is cheap and costs 25 DKK (4 USD) per person. You can always ask the Guru’s for help and they most likely will help you out with rules and introduction to the game.

How to get there: It is right in the city center – walk from the central station.

3. Lucia kayak parade/ Lucia kayak optog (2 km)

This is a traditional Scandinavian ceremony that you can only witness on December 13 every year. In Denmark, small girls and boys walk the parade of Lucia which pays respect to an Italian saint. There are many theories about how this tradition came to Scandinavia. The story is about Saint Lucy (Lucia) who found herself forced to take her own eyes out to continue her charity work. The boys and girls walk a parade with candles on their heads singing. The nights are very long in December, so a theory is that it is a contribute to the darkness she must have had all the time delivering food to the needing. This particular kayak event is special. A kayaking club perform this parade in the harbour along the city and is most enjoyable to catch when they reach Nyhavn.

Practical info: Don’t miss it if you are in Copenhagen on December 13th. Google their specific time schedule, but you should in general be able to catch it around 3-4 PM in Nyhavn.

How to get there: Nearest Metro stop: Kongens Nytorv

4. Frederiksberg Have (2.9 km)

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During fall the park around the castle really looks amazing with the red leafs.

Copenhagen has many beautiful gardens and city parks, and this one is one of my very favorite. It a castle garden featuring Frederiksberg Slot, which is located on a hill called Valby Bakke. This position of the castle makes amazing photographing opportunity both of the caste and of the garden. The castle can be photographed from the bottom with the stairs leading to the castle with trees on both sides and a green grass area in the middle.  Walk up these stairs to take a stunning photo of the park itself – best time of the year for that is in the Autumn. The park will be less crowded, and the trees have the beautiful orange pop you want on your Instagram feed.

The Zoo is placed next to this park, so if you walk inside the park along that edge, you can have a free look into the Elephants house.

Practical info: If you come in summer the park will be overcrowded with sunbathing Danes.

How to get there: There are many buses going to different ends of the park. I recommend bus 6A towards Rødovrehallen from the central station (Hovedbanegården) and get off at Zoologisk Have. You can also take bus 9A or bus 26.

5. The cisterns, Søndermarken (3.1 km)

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The Cisterns entrance

Søndermarken is another of Copenhagen’s many parks, and this one is located right on the other side of the road to Frederiksberg Have. This one is more than just a park though, here you find the a 200 year old water reservoir construction. The people of Copenhagen digged a 16 million liter hole to ensure clean water for the whole city, as their wells and lakes started to be more and more polluted. Today it is empty of water and instead functions as a museum with different art galleries.

Practical info: It is closed on Mondays and entrance is 70 DKK (10.5 USD).

How to get there: There are many buses going to different ends of the park. I recommend bus 6A towards Rødovrehallen from the central station (Hovedbanegården) and get off at Zoologisk Have.

6. Nørrebro (4 km)

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From Wikipedia: Emily [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D
Nørrebro is where everything happens in Copenhagen. It is where the hipsters are, it is where the internationals are, it is were the young people rebel. A lot of local history has been made in this district of Copenhagen. You can take a walk along Nørrebrogade, which starts at Dronning Louises Bro (the bridge), it will take you close to Blågårdsplads and Sankt Hans Torv, where the hipsters are. You can walk it further into the deep Nørrebro, where the shawarma-bars and café’s starts dominating the streets. You will end up at “The Red Square” and then it is only few seconds walk to Nørrebro Parken, which is a very active park with a mix of interesting people with graffiti, marijuana, ball games, sunbathing people, breakdance, skating and so much more.

Practical info: Nørrebrogade, is a long street so be prepared for a long walk and make some stops at the interesting shops and cafe’s.

How to get there: You can either start from Nørreport Station or take the train to Nørrebro Station and go the other way.

7. Experimentarium (7 km)

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One of the most inspiring exhibition in Copenhagen.

This is the perfect place to bring your kids to learn about science in Denmark. All Danish kids who grew up in and around Copenhagen has been to this Science Museum. There are plenty of shows and “experiments” to play with. You can cut open a pigs lung or play with huge bubble blowers. But there are also some very interesting exhibition for adults: As I write this, there is a beautiful exhibition with plastified human bodies. This work is very unique and can only be seen in here and in The Netherlands as far I know. It is basically real human bodies who have been plastified so everything is clearly visible from veins to muscles to skin and set up doing their own professional sport like ballet or running.

Practical info: You will see many kids there. Let them loose and enjoy the adult exhibitions. It is open all days, so you can save this for a Sunday. Entrance is 195 DKK (30 USD) for adults and 115 DKK (17 USD) for children. If you go here by car, you can park for free in a nearby mall called Waterfront for 3 hours. After that it will cost 20 DKK for every additional hour.

How to get there: From the Central Station: Take train A towards Klampenborg and get off at Hellerup Station. Walk for 15 minutes from there, or take bus 1A for 2 stops and get off at Tuborg Boulevard.

8. Blue planet / Den Blå Planet (8 km)

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One of the larger aquariums

This is the national aquarium and it is the best in Scandinavia and a candidate to that same title in Europe. Not much to say about this place, other than it is definitely worth a visit. You will be able to see all kinds of water animals from around the world, and yes even alligators!

Practical info: Open every day of the week – so another good activity for a Sunday in Copenhagen!

How to get there: Driving and parking is possible. Parking costs 12 DKK per hour for the first 4 hours. Then it costs 15 DKK per hour. If you go by public transport take the M2 metroline towards the Airport and get off at Kastrup St.

9. Trolls / Trolde (8 km)

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One of the trolls. Picture taken from Wikipedia Commons: Tine [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D
All around the suburbs of Copenhagen, trolls are hiding in some of the parks and playgrounds. It is a fun activity for the family to drive around and hunting each of them. There are 6 giants in total named Teddy, Oscar, Louis, Thilde, Thomas and Trine and they are located in the districts of Rødovre, Hvidovre, Vallensbæk, Albertslund, Ishøj and Høje Taastrup. The trolls (or giants, as some people call them) are made by the artist Thomas Dambo and they are made of recycled wood and placed in places where people normally would never go.

Practical info: You can find the treasure hunt map by clicking here.

How to get there: As if I would tell you that now! Happy troll hunt!

10. Øresund bridge (8.5)

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I took the shot from the airplane when I landed in Copenhagen Airport

What you tend to forget when being in Copenhagen is, that Sweden is only 20 min away. Normally, the capital city of a country would be located in the center of the country for defense and administrative reasons. Denmark is one of those countries, where the capital is located on the eastern most point of the country (not counting Bornholm). In Denmark’s case, the main reason is that Denmark used to own many of the southern Swedish territories. Those territories are now linked directly to Copenhagen by the Øresund Bridge, and it is one of the most interesting “bridges” of the world.

The bridge is specially unique because it is a normal bridge from the Swedish side, but a tunnel from the Danish side. They meet somewhere in the middle and it just looks stunning to see the bridge dive into the water from above. The technical reason for this construction is to allow large ships to sail through, as the bridge would have been too low for the ships to sail beneath.

Unless you pay for a helicopter ride, there is only one way to take a picture of the diving point of the trip: You have to do it from the airplane window when you land or take off. If weather and landing conditions are perfect, you can get a pretty good shot with even a smartphone, like I did. However, take a car and make the drive – it is nice nonetheless. And you can have the opportunity to see one of the largest Swedish cities as well, that offers many Gems as well: Malmö.

Practical info: The bridge is not free, a return ticket will set you back around 100 USD.

How to get there: Drive!

11. Bakken (13 km)

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Rutschebanen. Photo taken from Wikipedia Commons: Leif Jørgensen [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D
Welcome to the oldest amusement park in the world! And the entrance is free! You have probably already heard of Tivoli and maybe visited this amazing amusement park in the middle of the city, but it is not the only amusement park in Copenhagen. Bakken is an even more historic amusement park, as it is the world’s oldest still operating amusement park. It opened in 1583! Can you imagine that? Try out their famous wooden rollercoaster name Rutschebanen, which dates back to 1914. And don’t worry, it is totally safe! Or.. safe enough 😉

Another pro-tip: Every year on the day the park opens, Danish motorcyclists have a tradition of driving their bikes from the Copenhagen city center to Bakken. This parade is worth witnessing if you happen to be in Copenhagen in April.

Practical info: In 2019 the park opened on April 12. Check their website to see exactly when the next motorcycle parade is happening. The Park is very popular, because it is basically free to enter for everyone. So if you don’t like rides but only wanna pay for your kids, this is all possible.

How to get there: Driving is one option. With public transport: Take train A or C from the Central station towards Klampenborg Station and get off there.

12. Rungsted Havn (25 km)

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Sunsets are something else here

This is a true hidden gem and my personal go to place when I need either piece of mind or a walk with a friend. This harbor i filled with yachts of all kinds and you will see some really fancy onces as well. During summer time, it is crowded and super cozy. You can also go to the beach there, which is one of the better beaches in the Copenhagen Area.

Practical info: There are restaurants there and a cozy atmosphere.

How to get there: Driving there is the best option. It is a bit long for a bus ride, but you can also take bus 29 from the central station.

13. Roskilde (31 km)

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From Wikipedia Commons: CucombreLibre from New York, NY, USA [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D
Make the trip to the nearby satellite city, Roskilde. This is the place where the Danish monarchs are buried. The cathedral is one of the most beautiful in the country. It is also the city where the famous and crazy Roskilde Festival for rock music is held every year.

Practical info: Enjoy the city!

How to get there: It takes 30 min with a regional train from Hovedbanegården to reach Roskilde.

 

14. Frederiksborg slot (37 km)

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The perfect picture is taken from the other side of the lake.

North of Copenhagen you will find the city of Hillerød. It houses one of the most beautiful castles in Denmark mainly because it is surrounded by a lake. The city itself is also worth a visit. Personally, I prefer to see this castle in the middle of the day in winter, because the view is wonderful when the lake is frozen. Walk around the lake and find your perfect angle of the castle. It is one of the most Instagrammable castles in Denmark because of the large lake and the size of the castle makes it easy to frame in one shot.

Practical info: Spend a day in the city. The castle is the city center, and there are plenty of dining options.

How to get there: Drive or take train A from central station to Hillerød Station. If train A is not driving to the city center, take line A towards Lyngby station and change to line A in Lyngby.

15. Visiting Malmø in Sweden (44 km)

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From Wikipedia Commons: Johan Jönsson (Julle) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D
If you are interested in crossing the the Øresund bridge, you will probably end up in Malmø. This is Sweden’s third largest city and definitely worth a visit. You can look up it’s many famous landmarks, but what probably wont show up is that they actually have a small restaurant for mice. So go around and look for that tiny miniature restaurant!

Practical info: The street for the mouse restaurant is Bergsgatan. Remember your ID, cause you will be crossing to a different country.

How to get there: From Hovedbanegården there are many trains and buses going to Malmø. You can also take the car!

16. Vallø castle (46 km)

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The beautiful Vallø Castle

If you drive to Copenhagen from Germany, you will pass by this beautiful castle that is totally hidden and unknown even for most Danish people. Only the locals of the suburban city of Køge knows about this gem. The castle is closed for visitors inside, but it’s beauty is from the outside and also the park around it is stunning.

Practical info: Bring a picnic

How to get there: Car is the best option, as there is a long walk from Vallø Station.

17. Helsingør (46 km)

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I visited the castle in winter. The snow makes the place even more beautiful.

Helsingør or Elsinore is a historical city at the narrowest strait to Sweden. Here you can visit Kronborg, the castle of Hamlet. You can actually see Sweden from the castle, which was used to collect taxes from ships passing by the strait. If you go to the basement of the castle, you can encounter Holger Danske (Olgier the Dane), who is a sleeping war hero, that will only wake up when one day Denmark’s existence is in real danger.  Nearby you also find some interesting museums and the city center is very charming as well.

Practical info: You can cross to Sweden on a 20 min ferry. On the other side is also a beautiful city called Helsingborg.

How to get there: It takes 45 minutes with a regional train from Hovedbanegården.

18. Strandvejen (10 – 46 km)

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Arne Jacobsens fuel station

If you go to Helsingør or Rungsted havn with a car, drive along the famous rich man’s beach street “Strandvejen”. This is the road along the coastline north of Copenhagen, and here you find the big mansions of all the rich Danes. Danish people are often proud of telling you how much equality you find in the country, which is also true. But like in all other countries, there is always the rich and the poor, and in Denmark, the contrast is most visible if you compare other places to this road.

Practical info: Enjoy the view, and if you need to fuel your car, do it at Skovshoved Tankstation, which is a fuel station designed by the famous danish designer Arne Jacobsen.

How to get there: Drive along it with a car or a scooter.

19. Sand sculptures in Hundested (64 km)

In Hundested harbour they have a sand sculpture festival going on every year. Go to the beach and admire the beautiful creations by some very talented artists.

Practical info: It is open between May 10 and October 20. The entrance is 50 DKK (7.5 USD).

How to get there: With a car it is easiest, but it is also doable with the public transport, you just need to change trains twice. First take train E to Lyngby St., change to train A to Hillerød St. and finally change to Lokalbane 920R train to Hundested.

20. Spiral forest tower (66 km)

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The famous spiral tower in the middle of a forest.

It is almost a shame to put this place on a “off the beaten path” list anymore, because since they finished this tower in 2019, the place has been featured on many travel magazines like Lonely Planet and Time Magazine. And still very few has been here, so come join the trend and visit this beautiful spiral tower in the middle of a Danish forest.

Practical info: The price for entrance is 150 DKK (22 USD), but if you book online you can save 25 DKK. The place also offers several different climbing activities for kids, that might interest you. Car parking is 50 DKK (7.5 USD).

How to get there: Taking the car is the easiest solution. Otherwise, you can take a train to Næstved Station, and from there take Bus 630R towards Faxe Ladeplads and stop at Sydmotorvejen (Ny Næstvedvej).

21. Stevns Klint (66 km)

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Stevns Klint

Stevns Klint is an amazing hike and surprisingly empty place. Enjoy the nature in one of the few places to do a good hike in Denmark. It is a world heritage site for several reasons, one of them being fish clay and traces of a meteor attack. There is 22 km coast line to hike and several interesting sites, museums and fortresses along the way.

Practical info: The question is where to start, and there are plenty of places. Try to

How to get there:

22. Bonbon land (73 km)

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One of the (least) disturbing figures in this amusement park.

Maybe of all places in on the list, this one is the most bizarre attraction in the whole Denmark. That does not stop it from being one of the most popular amusement parks by Danish citizens. This amusement park is the opposite of Disney. Everything here is designed to be ugly, trashy and dirty. Some of the ride’s names are: “The Dog Fart”, “The Dump” and “The Seagull Poop”, which is not even the most bizarre about the rides. Animal figures are posing in a sexist and dirty way all over the amusement park. All this makes it genuinly one of the most interesting amusement parks in the world and in the same time the kids love it. Not alone is “Bonbon” an amusement park, but it is also a Danish candy brand that are extremely popular amongst Danish kids and also adults.

Practical info: The best way to get there is by car. Parking is 40 DKK (6 USD) and entrance is 180 DKK (27 USD) and all rides included. You can also t

How to get there: To go by train to BonBon-Land you must first reach Næstved with a regional train and then switch to another regional train that stops at Holme Olstrup station and from here there is only a 5-minute walk.

23. Trelleborg, Slagelse (95 km)

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Trelleborg. Picture taken from Wikipedia Commons: Thue C. Leibrandt [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D
If you want real viking history, look no further! You can see a real viking fortress in the west part of Zealand. This viking fortress was built by no other than the famous King Harald Bluetooth, which your bluetooth device today is named after. Here you can visit a museum and learn about the life as a true viking. Check their website for event, maybe they have a viking play or festival you can snapshot!

Practical info: Everything is free except special events like the viking festival.

How to get there: Best is by car. Otherwise, take the train to Slagelse. then take bus 439 from Slagelse Station.

24. Møns klint (126 km)

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Møns Klint

South of Zealand is connected by more bridges to other smaller islands. This beautiful natural gem is located in one of those islands called Møn. This is probably the most beautiful hiking place in Denmark and most certainly in Zealand. This is a small cliff pointing to the sea and you can walk it from the top or from the beach at the bottom. I recommend you take a round trip – but remember good hiking shoes. If the weather is good, you can also enjoy the beach which is a stone beach but at least with a stunning view to the cliff. Remember your camera down there!

Practical info: It is free – remember to bring a picnic or some snacks, cause the dining opportunities are not many in the area. You can find a cafe there though.

How to get there: Go by car, this is my best recommendation as it becomes cumbersome and takes a long time to reach it by public transport. However, you can do that by taking a train to Vordingborg and from there take bus 660R to Stege and the shift to bus 678.

25. H. C. Andersen’s city and home (165 km)

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H. C. Andersen’s childhood home

Explore the home of the world famous fairy tale author H. C. Andersen. Coming to Denmark is for many tourists all about him. His home city is Odense, and there you can walk in his footsteps, visit museums, find statues from his fairytales and most importantly visit his childhood home. The city is on the island of Fyn, and you have to cross the beautiful brige, Storebæltsbroen, to get there.

Practical info: You can buy a 5-in-1 ticket to different museums and his birth home and his childhood home. You can also go visit the places in Odense one by one.

How to get there: You can take a regional train from Hovedbanegården to Odense. You can also go by car, but be prepared to pay for crossing the bridge, this can cost up to 500 DKK (73 USD).

 

Getting around Preveza and Lefkada

In the summer 2019, I landed in Preveza Airport (Aktion Airport PVK). It is a small airport, where most visitors have already booked an all inclusive hotel and have a big “charter” bus from different travel agencies sending them to their respective destinations.

However, if you travel on a budget like myself, you might want to know how to get from the airport to Preveza city with public transportation. Likely, you would also be going to Lefkada island from the airport or maybe even have Parga or Athena as a destination. Here is the guide to how you travel to those places from the airport, and how you get around with local transportation in Lefkada Island.

So here is a guide for how to get between Aktion Airport, Preveza, Lefkada, Parga and Athens.

 

From Aktion Airport (PVK) to Preveza:

Preveza is 10 min away with car from the Airport, however, you cannot walk the distance, because it goes through a car only tunnel.

The easiest option is to take a Taxi, which will set you back 25 euros. In my opinion it is not worth the trip, but if you can find few other people to share the ride with, it might be worth it.

By Bus:

There is a bus, that goes from Preveza Airport (PVK) to Preveza Bus Station. The price is 2 euros. When coming out of the airport, walk right to the main road and you will see a bus stop, with this time table on:

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Bus timetable between Preveza and Lefkada. However, the times has changed for the direction to Lefkada. For the updated times read the next section.

If you are going to Preveza, you will have to look at the bottom green time table saying from Lefkas to Preveza Airport.

And be aware, that those times are not the arrival times, but the time of when the bus depart from Lefkada. It takes the bus around 45 min to reach the airport. I will suggest that you add 30 min and start waiting from then. At the airport, you can get food and coffee meanwhile.

Another important aspect: This bus do go to “Preveza Suburban Bus Station”, which is located 30 min walk outside the city center. It does not stop at the city center. If you want the city center of Preveza, you can walk or take a taxi from there, which is way cheaper than from the airport. You can also look for local buses, but these do not drive frequently.

From Preveza or Aktion Airport to Lefkada

If you are at Preveza Bus Station you can take a bus going to Lefkada. The bus will pass by the airport.

If you are at the airport, walk right to the main road when you come out. Here there is a bus stop, which is a bit away from the road. Make sure you stand near the road clear to wave it in, when it comes by.

This is the timetable for the bus for all days of the week. These are all departure times from Preveza Bus Station:

Preveza – Lefkada 6:45 10:00 12:30 15:15 17:15 20:15

It takes 15-20 minutes for the bus to go from Preveza Bus station to Aktion Airport.

From Preveza to Athens and return

There is a bus going from Preveza to Athens every day. It is not necessary to book your ticket before hand, as there normally is space in the bus. However, if you are at the bus station some days prior to your trip to Athens, prebook a ticket. A one way ticket costs 40 euros, or you can buy a return ticket for 60 euros. Online booking is not possible yet, but it will be soon on the following link: 

https://www.ktelprevezas.gr/en/online-tickets/

You can see time tables on the following link:

https://www.ktelprevezas.gr/en/itineraries/athina/

You will arrive at Kefissos bus station in Athens, and from there take bus 51 to the city center. The bus stop for bus 51 is right on the other side of the bus station, so do not walk too much around looking for it elsewhere. Google Maps is not accurate when it comes to bus stations in Athens.

From Preveza to Parga and return

Going to Parga is also possible from Preveza Bus Station. Timetables are on the following link:

https://www.ktelprevezas.gr/en/itineraries/parga/

Going around Lefkada Island

The easiest way to get around Lefkada Island is on a scooter or motorcycle. You can rent one for maximum of 20 euros a day and get it delivered to your own hotel, so you can return it there as well. In this way you can get to see the whole island and visit all the interesting beaches, caves and waterfalls.

Going around Lefkada Island with bus

There are buses that goes around the island, and it is much easier than you fear. The only setback is, that the buses do not go to some of the gems, where you will need to do a long hike or rent a bike to get to your destination. The buses do visit the major and some minor cities on the main road around the island.

At Lefkada bus station you can grab a flyer with the bus times. I have uploaded it here. These are timetables for the summer 2019:

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For updates routes, check out their website here: https://ktel-lefkadas.gr/en/routes/local/

You can pay at the station or on the bus. A good tip is to ask the driver or the ticket collector to stop somewhere along the route, if you know your hotel or your destination is not near a bus stop. They will be open to that.

From Lefkada to Athens or Thessaloniki

As you can see on the flyer above, there are buses going from Lefkada to Thessaloniki and Athens every day and back.

Timetable for buses from Lefkada to Athens and Lefkada – Thessaloniki:

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My journey to the Pyramids of Sudan (part II)

This is part 2 of the story of my journey to the Pyramids of Sudan. In Part 1, I visited the Jebel Barkal pyamids and the Nuri Pyramids. For part one click here.

I was back in the capital Khartoum and I had planned with Musab, my driver and now friend, to go to the Bejrawiya pyramids the day after. The Bejrawiya is the arabic name of the pyramid site, that Google called Meroe. That day I was visiting the national museum in Khartoum and checking out some markets. I also had to call the airport to check up on the missing bag.

Going to the museum allowed me to see some of the treasures and mummies found inside the tombs I had just visited in Barkal and Nuri

Upon arrival to Khartoum I did not receive my luggage so I of course reported it and convinced the lady working there to give me her personal Whatsapp in order to contact her, as I did not have a Sudanese phone.

The luggage had arrived and was stored in the airport, but the problem was, that it was not possible to pick it up until the next day at 8 AM. Because it was also my last day in Sudan, it was my last chance to pick it up.

Airport first and then we are off to the Pyramids

It ruined my plans a little, because I was intending to go to Bejrawiya early morning to be able to make it back in time for the Mawlid celebrations that was going to happen in Omdurman later that day.

At 7:50 I was with Musab at the airport asking for my luggage back. As expected everything took lots of time to sort out, but 45 minutes later we were heading towards Bejrawiya.

The first bribe

On the way there are many checkpoints awaiting you. As soon as they see me they of course ask for identification. It should not be a problem, but they keep complicating it by saying we need some permit or that the car needs to be searched. Musab could feel the bribe vibe and gave a handshake with some money between his fingers. We were off again.

The distance to the Pyramids were 230 km, but we havent even completed 50 km before we got pulled over again.

Another bribe or a speed ticket?

This time a police officer pulled us over for a speed ticket. He wanted 200 sudanese pounds for exceeding the speed limit. That is the equivalent to 1 dollar at that time. Musab got off and talked to him for few minutes and when he came back, he told me that he negotiated the price down to 100 pounds. I could not help myself laughing, but it was great for him.

Third bribe, Musab got cocky

So third time we were stopped on our way there, and this time the officer wanted to know if we had a tourism permit to go see the pyramids. If you have read part one of the story, this was a huge issue when we went to Jabal Barkal.

This time Musab was getting confident and he said with conviction:

“No we don’t need a permit, our honored leader has announced it is open for everybody now”

To put this in context, this happened just few weeks before the uprising of the Sudanese people, that resulted a successful (and still ongoing) revolution, where they got rid of their dictator Omar El-Bashir, who had been ruling the country for 30 years. It was El-Bashir Musab was refering to here.

I honestly was surprised by his courage, and the officer was obviously confused as well. After a little pause, the officer said: “Yes yes, I know he did, but if there is a permit we still like to see it.”

Eventually he let us continue.

From 40 dollars to a fraction of a dollar

So we finally made it to the Bejrawiya, or Meroe, as it was signed in English. We parked by the entrance as the only car and only guests there. There were few kids trying to sell us souvenirs already and a small entrance office.

I was wearing a T-shirt saying “TOKYO” and my fancy sunglasses. I walk in and greet the lady at the counter. She looks at me for 3 seconds and says in English:

“40 dollars!” 

I take my sunglasses off to expose my dark Arabic eyes and smile to her. I answer her in perfect Arabic: “What would you take from a local?” 

I don’t know if she is disappointed in my ethnicity, but she says:

“Fine, of course as long as you are Arabic, we will treat you like one of our own. 300 (Sudanese) pounds please”

I say: “Really? Do you take 300 from Sudanese?”

Her: “Okay, just 50” 

And that is how it is done!

The sight

The sight of these pyramids though are like nothing I have ever seen. It is not just 3-5 pyramids on a row like the Pyramids of Giza or the Pyramids of Jabal Barkal. No.. here is tens of pyramids all very close together. How many Pyramids where there at the Meroe site? Somewhere around 60-70 pyramids, in addition tens of ruins that may have been pyramids at some point.

Where else can you touch two ancient pyramids at the same time? The answer is: In the Sudan only! 

The craziest car ride ends up with an accident

The way back was very hectic. We were trying to get back in time for the Mawlid celebration in Omdurman in Khartum, but it looked like we were gonna be late. Musab was driving fast on this two-sided bumpy road. When he slowed down, others would overtake him, and one van did smash into Musab’s side mirror.

Of course this is the Sudan, so you do not stop op and exchange ensurance information, the van driver slowed down to let Musab overtake him again and while he did that he put his hands out the window and apologized.

But the craziness did not stop there. A huge truck was fallen sideways on the road and that lead to a massive line of cars. So do we wait in line, or do we drive on the opposite side of the road?

You guessed right, we drove on the opposite side of what is supposed to be “the highway”. Now.. it is a one lane each way road. So of course cars came at us, and Musab was forced down the sandy sideway. There were few Jeeps following Musab’s example but in general this was not good for the car.

The good news is though, that we made it to experience the end of the Mawlid celemony which was so amazing! But that is for another post!

My journey to the Pyramids of Sudan (part I)

Sudan is the country in the world with most pyramids and visiting those are one of the most fascinating experiences the country offers. It was one of the reasons why I a late November night landed in Khartoum Airport.

After a Nile boat ride, where I sailed where the Blue and the White Nile met, I jumped into a Tirhal Taxi (the Sudanese version of Uber). He took me to Jabal Aulia. We became good friends on this short trip and I asked him if he could take me to the Pyramids of Meroe the next day. We agreed on a price, which was equal to 150 dollars. On Google Maps I could see that the pyramids were 230 km away.

Where are we going? 

The next morning we were on the road. He told me he needed to make few stops first just to make sure the car was fit for the journey. He stopped at some pit stops to buy oil for the engine, taking away a little air from the tires and changing the oil. He also made one more stop, that I only later discovered what was about.

It took an hour or so before we again were on the road. However, not the right road according to Google Maps. I thought… Google is an old clever friend, I can trust him. So I discussed it a bit with the driver, who was sure his way was the right one. We asked around a bit and he made some phone calls to friends who had done this trip before and everyone told him that he was right. I wasn’t convinced, but I thought.. fair, let us do it your way – at least it will be an adventure.

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Musab (the driver) fixing his car

The drugs in the car

After 70-80 km we did pass a rare sign on the road saying this was the way to Meroe in Arabic. This calmed me down, but the car did not. We kept stopping to add oil to the engine that consumed concerning amount of oil. Musab (his name) also used these breaks to smoke his cigarettes which I asked him kindly not to do in the car, as the smell annoys me. After having driven 250 km we still had no signs of Meroe. We kept driving trying not to take many breaks to make it there before the sunset. I was also wondering why he not once had to fuel his car.

We had now passed 300 km and still no sign. I noticed Musab started to take something green from a small bag and put it beneath his upper lip, just to spit it out later. It turns out this is some kind of drug (I assume it was Qat). That was the last thing he went to buy, before we headed out. Specially when not smoking he needed it to calm down.

He was a very chill guy already, but I told him he could smoke. The distance was much longer than any of us anticipated and I would rather he was comfortable.

Taken to the police station 

After 450 km there was a check point. The officer looked at me and asked me if I am Syrian (Sudan has many Syrian refugees and I look Arabic). I said no, I said I was Arabic but from another country. He asked for my ID and after a long wait, he told us we need permission to continue. Tourists are not allowed in this area without a permission. Musab and I tried to talk sense to him, saying I am not a real tourist. I was his friend visiting him personally and staying at his family’s place.

While the officer was making some calls, Musab told me all of his family’s names so I could answer if they asked more into our relationship. In the end, they told us to go to the police station and get a permit. Another officer offered to go with us there both to show us the way to the police station.

So we drove to a little village and I could see the signs saying Police district of Meroe. The building was very small and with a tiny office, a TV and a back garden with a small mosque. There was only one guy sitting there who took my ID again, asked few questions and then told me to wait. After waiting for a while, I asked what was going on. Apparently, they were only waiting for the chief officer to arrive so he could give the final permission.

The wait was long, and I honestly started to get scared. They had my ID, I could not go anywhere, we had lied to them and Musab still had his drugs in the car. It was already late afternoon and they invited me to pray with them in the mosque in their backyard. So we prayed and I was trying to make as little notice of myself as possible.

The white man arrived

Finally a big car arrived. There was no doubt this was the chief officer arriving here. Out came all the other policemen and they opened the car door for him. And out came, surprisingly, a white man (not european white but middle eastern-like white). For some reason, I was not in doubt that he was actual Sudanese though. He gave us all a strong handshake, looked for 2 seconds at the paper work and told me, that I was a dear guest and this is as much my own country. And we were free to go.

However, the officer that showed us the way here offered to come with us and show us the way to the Pyramids. They were near. We couldn’t say no.

The Pyramids of Jabal Barkal

The feeling of relieve was exceptional when I first laid my eyes on the Pyramids.  I was seriously feeling an accomplishment. Not only had we driven across the Sahara, we had overcome lots of issues, we forgot even to eat and the best part: We had the whole site for ourselves.

Musab had to drive on the sand to get all the way to the pyramids. We parked and we could run to them. Climb them (after kindly asking the officer). Musab even carved his fiance’s name on the pyramid, which I got really mad at him about.

There was a holy mountain there, Jabal Barkal. This mountain was sacred to the Farao’s and inside was a temple cave. And from the outside, from a certain angle, a cliff was naturally shaped like a cobra.

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The car sank into the sand

Is is never a good idea to park your old front wheel driven car in the Sahara. We had to dig some sand away from the sunk car and push. I managed to lose my glasses in this process so out was my vision as well. But eventually we pushed the car free and off we went to the next site.

The Pyramids of Nuri

The officer (Ahmad was his name), told us about another site with pyramids only 20 km from this place. He took us there too.. and this place was at least as impressive. It was during the sunset, so the photos I got from this place were incredible. But the first thing I noticed was the skeletons of dead goats around the area. The next thing was the large amount of pyramids there. And the third thing, unfortunately, was how many of those pyramids were destroyed do  to western treasure hunters.

Again we had the place for ourselves. Later, I visited the national museum where I learned, that this place was were they found Taharqa, the most famous of the Sudanese Pharos.

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Did we finally run out of Gasoline?

Before going back, the car’s alarm sensors asked for a change of oil. Musab found a place near a gas station and started to work. I had the chance to sit with Ahmad and talk about everything from life to politics to the differences between arabs and africans, colonization, hopes and dreams. I have to say, as much as I was scared at the police station, as much he and everyone else in Sudan were kind. Musab had troubles with his car, so I went to help him fixing it. And at the end the gas station closed down but Ahmad made them open it up again for us to fuel as the last costumers. I noticed how thirsty the car was, and I assume he had the gas tank enlarged. I have never seen a car running as long without needing fuel.

Peeing in a hole and eating by a dead rat

We drove Ahmad back to work and head home. We stopped few times. One to use the toilets which were basically just a hole in the desert. Musab prefered to walk a distance and do it in nature. There was a small house there with open doors and few men sitting outside watching TV. They offered us to sleep with them and head out in the morning. We declined politely.

The second stop was to eat.. there were a stop for truck drivers were they could have something to eat. It was also outside and dirty. We sat on plastic chairs and table, but had to move them after I discovered a dead rat just besides me.

We had some of their food. We hadn’t eaten all day so I did not care what it was. We talked about how amazing Sudan was and where else we should see next time I visit. I understood that there is two places named Meroe. One is the one we went to, and the other one is the one on google which Sudanese call Bejrawiya. We made plans to go there together 2 days later.

The car broke down a couple of times on the road. My family back home was worried as well as we arrived back at 2 am.

What happened at the Bajrawiya? That is gonna be for the part 2 of this tale.