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Cruising Down the Danube with Viking River Cruises: A Visual Itinerary

View of Budapest from Viking Vili

Christmas in Europe is simply magical. Trust me on this one! Every December, for the past four years, my husband and I visited countless Christmas markets around the old continent. Each time was different - one year we traveled by train, another we traveled with friends. But this year was by far our favorite, as we went cruising down the Danube in the festively decked in holiday spirit Viking Vili.

But let's rewind a bit. Almost every time we told people we were going on a river cruise in the middle of December, they looked at us like we were crazy. 'But... isn't that something you do in... summer?' they would ask with a puzzled expression. Umm... I see what's going on. Most people still hold the preconceived notion that a cruise is about lazy afternoons spent on the sundeck wearing bikinis and sipping cocktails. But there's so much more to cruising than that! 

Between me and you, what can be more charming than a Danube cruise, adorning the onboard Christmas tree together with your fellow travelers, joining gingerbread house decorating workshops, listening to traditional Christmas carols in the lounge, and making new friends over a glass of steaming Gluhwein? 

The truth is until you try a cruise for yourself, it's hard to know what you are getting into. When we booked the 'Castles and Legends' itinerary with Viking River Cruises we were as green to cruising as anyone can be. But we knew we wanted to visit more European Christmas Markets and were tired of packing and unpacking our luggage every other day as we moved from one location to the next. Boy, was this a Godsent! 

But let's recap our Viking River Cruises itinerary. I will cover more cruising tips and debunk more misconceptions in future articles. 

The Castles and Legends is a 12-day itinerary that starts with a 4-day pre-cruise visit to Munich and Salzburg, followed by a 7-day cruise from Passau to Budapest.

Day 1 - Munich

At the Munich Christmas market

We arrived at Munich airport where we were greeted by one of Viking's representatives. We enjoyed a quick transfer to our Sheraton hotel in Munich where we met Lukas, the tour director for the land section of our trip. After a short briefing, we had the afternoon free, time which we used to browse through Munich's Christmas markets and enjoy some fragrant Gluhwein (how cute is that mug?).

Day 2 - Neuschwanstein Castle & Linderhof Palace

Linderhof Palace

In the true spirit of our itinerary's name, we kicked off our trip with a visit to two of the most spectacular buildings in Germany, both built by the same Kind Ludwig II, the Fairy Tale King of Bavaria.

We toured Neuschwanstein Castle, a fortress with extravagant chambers designed to resemble a theatrical setting. While built as an homage to Richard Wagner, later on, it served as an inspiration for Walt Disney's Cinderella Castle. 

In the afternoon we visited Linderhof Palace which, despite its relatively small size, features some of the most lavishly decorated interiors I've ever seen. I personally fell head over heels in love with it. Let me put it this way. It's the house I've always wanted but only if I wouldn't have to clean all those gilded bronze ornaments myself! Seriously, that's the only deal breaker!

Day 3 - Munich

Munich Hofbrauhaus

Our day started with a tour of the BMW exhibition center where I got to feel posh behind the wheel of a convertible. I would have preferred it to come in yellow, but they explained to me those were on demand only, and I felt a bit disappointed - yeah, that's how much I know about cars!

Next, we made a stop at Hofbrauhaus, the famous state-owned brewery founded all the way back in 1589, where regulars can have their own beer mugs locked. It's Germany, what do you know! The even funnier thing is that the lockers are in such high demand, you'd have to wait for years before you get your turn, as they are usually rented for life. Never give up on something that you can't go a day without thinking about, right?

At 11AM sharp our tour guide brought us to Marienplatz, the city's main square, to admire Munich’s glorified Cuckoo Clock, the Glockenspiel, putting up a show for us by re-enacting historical events from the 16th century.

We walked around the Christmas market at the foot of the Town Hall a bit longer, enjoying the vibrant energy of the place and stuffing our face with German delicacies before we hopped back on the Viking bus on the way to Salzburg.

Day 4 - Salzburg

I grew wings in Salzburg!

Salzburg surprised us first of all though its festive mood. So beautifully decked for the holidays and so charming in its own right, Salzburg turned out to be the perfect place to enjoy the Christmas markets and do most of the Christmas shopping. Relatively small and easy to explore by foot, this city conquered our hearts, as we woke up to the sight of graceful domes and spires, the beautiful clifftop fortress and the mountains beyond.

In the morning we were busy dancing around the Mirabell Gardens and walking in the footsteps of Maria and the von Trapp children. Then our tour guide took us to see Mozart's birthplace. The afternoon was ours to enjoy, but the sound of music stayed with us. To be honest, I still surprise myself humming 'Do, Re, Mi' or 'Edelweiss' every now and then.

Day 5 - The Sound of Music tour

'The Sound of Music' gazebo

In the morning, we got on board our motor coach direction Passau. However, on the way, we made quite a few stops to visit some of the most renowned sites where 'The Sound of Music' was filmed. We stopped by the famous gazebo where Liesl and Rolf sang 'I am sixteen going on seventeen' and spent a couple of hours by Lake Mondsee, admiring the stunning views and visiting the church where Maria and Captain von Trapp were married.

But the tour was particularly interesting because it set apart film from reality. Like, did you know the real Maria and Captain von Trapp had been married for several years before they had to flee the country? Or that they didn't have to cross over the mountains to escape the Nazis, but instead just crossed the road to the nearby train station to take a train to Italy one day before the borders closed?

In the afternoon we arrived in Passau where we got on board Viking Vili. We were welcomed by the friendliest of crews and they reassured us right from the very beginning that our satisfaction and safety was of paramount importance to them. They also joked they won't let us disembark unless we gained at least 3kg (6.6lbs) by the end of the week. It turned out it wasn't a joke after all - we met the requirements to get off the ship just in time.

Day 6 - Passau

The gorgeous St Stephan's Cathedra in Passau

As we woke up in our cozy veranda stateroom, little did we know we were about to join one of the most entertaining walking tours of Passau. 

Right after breakfast, we met Alex, a young guy with a certain amount of Scottish blood running through his veins and an incredible talent for words - happy to see my theory that Scottish people are natural born storytellers confirmed once more! Suffice to say that he was so delightfully funny and knowledgeable that he somehow managed to make us forget about the freezing cold weather that morning. 

We sampled gingerbread and sipped Gluhwein at the famous Konditorei Simon, and our taste buds were tempted by more than one of the cakes on display. 

Eventually, we ended our morning walking tour with an amazing organ concert at St. Stephan's Cathedral, the largest pipe organ in Europe and an egg punch at the nearby Christmas market. 

The afternoon was spent on board Viking Vili, sailing down the Danube towards Linz. However, there was never a dull moment, as lunch was followed by Christmas cookie demonstrations, live music, and drinks. In a common effort, we all got busy decking the Christmas tree, and then we deepened our knowledge of Christmas traditions in Europe with our wonderful program director, Mieke. 

Day 7 - Cesky Krumlov

Cesky Krumlov

On this day we had two shore excursions to choose from - Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic or a walking tour of Linz. We opted for the former and we certainly weren't disappointed. 

Cesky Krumlov is a small UNESCO town built around a 13-century castle above the Vltava River. Its colorful buildings and astonishing views make for one of the most picturesque places in Europe. Of course, we found a cute little Christmas market right in the main square with plenty of stalls selling local delicacies as well as the famous chimney cakes (technically not Czech at all, since they are specific to the Hungarian-speaking regions in Romania, but incredibly popular all around the Check Republic).

The evening was spent aboard, enjoying a good dinner followed by an interactive quiz night and relaxing live music. By now, we certainly started to see all the advantages of a river cruise and get comfortable in this new way of travel.

Day 8 - Melk Abbey & Wachau Valley wine tasting

Views from the Melk Abbey

And so it was time to eat, pray, and love some wine. 

The first shore excursion of the day was to the spectacular 900-years old Melk Abbey. Perched on a dramatic outcrop overlooking the Danube, this fortified abbey is a perfect example of Baroque architecture. Among the highlights are the monastic library, one of the most beautiful in the world, and the lavishly decorated church. Seriously, I didn't even know where to look first! But then, when we got to the terrace overlooking the village at the foot of the hill, I was mesmerized again by the amazing views all around it. 

Back on the ship, we spent a relaxing afternoon sailing through the beautiful Wachau Valley, one of the most scenic stretches of the Danube and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We passed castle ruins and monasteries, quiet villages and rolling hills covered in vineyards. 

As we moored near Durnstein with plenty of time to spare before dinner, we opted for a visit to a local winery instead of heading into town. This region has been producing fine Austrian wines since medieval times so it felt like the logical choice. 

Our guide, Trincka, was simply hilarious and together with the owner of Morwald winery, they made quite a team. We visited the facility and we laughed until our bellies hurt. Then we drank some wine! We also tasted some schnapps, which I personally found delicious. The Morwald family has owned the winery for four generations and they have a lucrative contract with Viking Cruises, which meant we got to taste some more of their wines onboard.

We ended the day with a scrumptious dinner that featured many Austrian delicacies, followed by dancing and singing together with Dari, the onboard musician.

Day 9 - Vienna

Schonbrunn Palace

We sailed the whole night and woke up to the beautiful city of Vienna and the first snowflakes of the season. There were several shore excursions to choose from that day, including a walking tour and a motor coach tour of the city. A Christmas market shuttle was put at our disposal. A tour of the Schonbrunn Palace was also an option. 

But we chose the Vienna Highlights tour for several reasons. It was a whole day trip. It included both a bus tour and a walking tour as well as a guided visit to the magnificent Schonbrunn Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It involved a traditional lunch in one of the restaurants inside Hofburg palace, where the Imperial Apartments and the Sisi Museum are. But above all, it included a Viennese Waltz lesson. Was I a disaster walking on two left feet? I was! Am I proud that I took my first dance lesson ever in Vienna? Absolutely! It's the number one thing that pops into my mind every time I think about our Viking cruise.

After an early dinner on the boat, we hopped back on one of Viking's buses (yes, every shore excursion was taken in a Viking bus) and off we went to enjoy a Mozart and Strauss concert in a Viennese palace. Not only was the location special, but the concert was really good and entertaining too.

Upon our return to the ship, steaming bowls of goulash soup were waiting for us in the Aquavit Terrace. We weren't really hungry, but we certainly were curious, so we sat down and relaxed enjoying the second dinner. Somehow we managed to put on 3kg in 1 week, you know!

Day 10 - Bratislava

Bratislava Castle

Bratislava welcomed us all dressed up in white. It was beautiful but cold and we were glad we had previously signed up for the home-hosted visit rather than the walking or the bus tour of the city center. 

The home-hosted visit was an intimate one, as we were merely six guests, our guide, and the driver snuggled up in a minivan. We visited a family of artists in a village outside Bratislava, which was quite interesting. Since this was our second visit to the Slovak capital, it was just perfect. 

In the afternoon we set sail towards Budapest and as we went through the last lock of our cruise, we took a tour of the wheelhouse and had a chat with the captain. Then it was time to get our creative juices flowing and decorate some gingerbread houses. 

By the time we were served Hungarian tea with of all kinds of delish Hungarian pastries, it was mid-afternoon. We lingered in the lounge enjoying the company of newly made friends, then did a champagne toast together with the captain, and eventually moved down to the restaurant to enjoy the farewell dinner. The evening ended with a music quiz and we won a bottle of champagne. Yay to us!

Day 11 - Budapest

Dohany Street Synagogue

By the time we woke up we had been docked in Budapest for a good few hours. We first joined a bus tour of the city, followed by a visit inside the Matthias Church and around the Fisherman's Bastion. From there we enjoyed stunning views of Budapest, including the much-celebrated Parliament building across the Danube. 

In the afternoon, there were four shore excursions to choose from - soaking up in one of Budapest's thermal baths, a culinary tour of the city, a visit to the Grand Market or a tour of the Jewish Quarter.

We chose the latest so we got to marvel at the amazing Dohány Street Synagogue, the largest in Europe and the second largest in the world. We were impressed to tears by 'The Tree of Life', a sculpture resembling a weeping willow whose leaves have etched on them the names of many Hungarian Jews who died during the Holocaust. We ended on a sweet note, however, with a tea and a rich cake in a kosher coffee shop.

During the chef's dinner, it was finally time to say so long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye to our fellow travelers. Many of them would have flights to catch early in the morning. But we couldn't call it a night before one last visit to the lounge to listen to a local quartet that just came onboard. They filled the room with glee while singing Chrismas carols with a wrist, which put a smile on everyone's faces.

Day 12 - Farewell

I'm not got at goodbyes. I never know what to say and I never like to say it. Therefore leaving our ship and the crew behind was difficult. We came to care for this people because they took such great care of us. They really put heart and soul into our wellbeing. They always had a smile and were incredibly helpful. And by now, they felt like family. Thank you ALL!

Disclaimer: We were guests of Viking River Cruises, but all options are our own.
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Photographic Guide to Mount Everest Tour in Tibet

Blessed with epic mountain vista, turquoise alpine lakes and profound Buddhist culture, for years Tibet has held its irresistible allure to world-wide photographers. Apart from the fervent Tibetan pilgrims on the street in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, the most common scene is the both amateur and professional photographers, snapping photos with their robust DSLR and chic lens.

Mt. Everest, the world’s summit, Tibet

Regardless of their varied specialties, such as portrait, landscape or architecture, street photography etc. all of them share one ultimate subject for photography in Tibet, i.e. Mt. Everest (8844.43m) , the summit of our planet. The following guide to Mt. Everest Photography Everest will help you get fully prepared for your Tibet tour.

Preparation for the Photographic Tour in Tibet

Camera and Lens

To have better image quality and travel light in mountainous region, it’s advisable to carry a full-frame DSLR or any film camera. Your camera shall be equipped with spot metering, aperture priority and manual mode as well.

A sample of camera gears

As to which lens are suitable for Tibet tour, particularly Mt. Everest photography, in reality a versatile telephoto zoom lens works better than a wide angle lens for it allows you to capture more details of the lofty mountains afar. However, it does not mean wide angle lens are useless. When it comes to the grander image like the architecture of Tibetan monastery and holy lakes and fluttering prayer flags around steep valley, etc. a wide lens has its edge.

In addition, a polarizing filter is also preferred for landscape photography. It can darken the sky, reduce unnecessary reflection and sun glare while increasing the contrast of your image.

Here are a number of recommended cameras and lens, you may choose one based on your need and budget.

A landscape photographer is adjusting his gears

Recommended full-frame DSLR:
Nikon D610; Nikon D750; Nikon D800; Nikon D810; Canon 6D; Canon 5D MarkⅢ

Recommended lens:
24-70mm, 16-35mm, 14-24mm, 70-200mm, 70-300mm; usually bringing a telephoto zoom lens with a wide lens will meet the demand in most cases.

Insider Tips: Do prepare more back-up batteries for your camera because the low temperature on the plateau drains battery faster than in normal temperature. Multiple SD and CF cards are also needed to seal the wonderful memory and stunning scenery of Tibet in your camera.

Clothes needed for Mt. Everest Tour

Mt. Everest region is marked by dramatic temperature change, biting wind and powerful solar radiation. A general packing list shall contain thermal tops, wind-stopper pullover, breathable underwear (5), light and heavyweight mittens, down jacket, wool pants, trekking boots, long and thick wool socks, etc.

General packing list

Other Gears:

Sunscreen, sun glasses, sun cream, sun hat, lip balms, sleeping bag, flash light, camera bag and toiletries and first-aid kit and necessary medicine for altitude sickness, cold, etc.

How to Travel to Everest

To be able to travel to Everest, firstly international tourists need to book the Tibet tour with a travel agency and fly to China to get your Tibet Permit before officially heading to Tibet. Then you can either board the Tibet train or take domestic flight to Lhasa (3658m), the capital of Tibet. After your arrival in Lhasa, for the first couple of days, you need to stay in Lhasa for the acclimatization to the high altitude there. Meanwhile, never miss the chance to visit the most iconic building of Tibet, namely Potala Palace and holy Jokhang Temple and Barkhor bazaar, etc.

Classic Lhasa to Everest Base Camp Map

Then you can follow the classic and also the most popular travel route from Lhasa to Everest Base Camp via historic Gyantse County and Shigatse city. After you enter Mt. Everest National Nature Reserve, Tingri, what await you would be the mind-blowing mountain scenery along Himalayan Range, esp. the magnificent Mt. Everest (8844.43m) at Everest Base Camp (5200m).

Best Season to Photograph Everest

April, May, Sept. and Oct are the best seasons to photograph Mt. Everest at EBC. During these periods, there is no need to worry about the heavy clouds and fog that interfere with photography. While from mid-June to August, Everest Region will have its rainy seasons due to the influence of monsoon. From Nov to Feb, the heavy snow might block the highway in Everest region, making it unsafe for travel.

Best Place to Photograph Mt. Everest

The top 3 places to photograph Mt. Everest are Gawu La Pass (5198m), Rongbuk Monastery (5154m) and Everest Base Camp (5200m).

Insider Tips: Do carry your sleeping bags and prepare enough clothes and some altitude sickness medicine and food before heading to Everest region. The sanitation in remote areas like EBC is bad with very basic accommodation and food.

a. Gawu La Pass (5198m)
Gawu La pass is the first you will stop by after you enter Mt. Everest National Nature Reserve. It’s also the only viewing platform where you will be able to enjoy the panoramic view of top 5 highest mountains standing side by side along Himalayan Range.

Appreciate the top 5 highest mountain range along majestic Himalayas at Gawu Las Pass

Appreciate the top 5 highest mountain range along majestic Himalayas at Gawu Las Pass

From left to right are Makalu (8463m), Lhotse (8516m), and Mt. Everest (8844.43m), Cho Oyo (8201m), Shishapangma (8027m). A good suggestion is to use a wide angle lens and place the fluttering prayer flags as the foreground as you take photos of imposing mountain range afar.

b. Rongbuk Monastery (5154m)
Known as the world’s highest monastery, Rongbuk Monastery is last religious site before reaching Everest Base Camp (5200m). It’s only 8km away from Rongbuk Monastery to Everest Base Camp. It’s the most ideal place to photograph the summit of Mt. Everest from the middle distance. It’s advisable to climb up to the hill beside Rongbuk Monastery to get better angle. And then use the monastery as the foreground to photograph Mt. Everest. You will get an engaging picture with nice depth of field.

Everest Base Camp is one of the most popular destinations for global photographers

Insider tips: The best time to photograph Mt. Everest from Rongbuk Monastery would be at sunset and sunrise. You will enjoy the spectacular “Golden Summit” of Mt. Everest. In the day time, if you are lucky enough, the well-renown “Flag Clouds” hanging over the peak of Mt. Everest. Besides, as long as you dare to brave the cold and venture out of the guesthouse in Rongbuk Monastery, you can enjoy the incredible moon light casting in the valley.

However, the accommodation in Rongbuk Monastery is very basic. The room is cold at night but you have electric blanket to keep warm while the toilet is dreadful to many western tourists. Nevertheless, it is such a fantastic location and is worth the discomfort of staying there for stunning photos.

c. Everest Base Camp (5200m)
To the majority of international tourists, Everest Base Camp is the closest place to observe Mt. Everest. As you stand at EBC, the entire summit and massive body of holy Mt. Everest will be exposed completely to your sight. You may use your telephoto lens (such as 70-200mm or 300mm) to have close-up shot of the summit of Mt. Everest. Meanwhile, colorful prayer flags, multiple tents and Everest monuments could also be used as the foreground.

Everest Base Camp is one of the most popular destinations for global photographers.

Take a glimpse of imposing Mt. Everest from holy Rongbuk Monastery

Insider Tips: Everyday, there are numerous global photographers who scramble to the EBC to capture the grandeur of Mt. Everest. It’s could be a bit crowded as everyone is trying to get the best position to shoot. The perfect timing to photograph Mt. Everest at EBC would also be the daybreak and sunset. Do wear a mitten and enough clothes, for the wind at EBC is bitterly cold. For astrophotographers, it’s highly recommended for you to stay overnight at EBC in yak tents run by local Tibetans. The jaw-dropping starry night at EBC would push your photography to a whole new level.

Imaginably, your photographic tour to Mt. Everest will absolutely be your lifetime experience with loads of incredible photos.
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10 Tips That Will Help You Pack for Your Next Cruise

Packing. We all do it differently. Some of us take our time and make sure everything is taken care of, and some of us leave it all to the last minute. It can be pretty annoying when you forget something important – it can also be frustrating if you pack too much and find yourself lugging around a massive bag everywhere.

One of the great things about going on a cruise is that you get to visit multiple destinations and you only have to unpack everything once! This takes a lot of the stress out of travelling to a few different places. Here are a few tips that will help you pack for your next cruise:

1. Divide your suitcase into sections for each type of clothing. With dresses in one corner and trousers in another, this will mean that you know where to find everything without throwing it all out of the suitcase each time.

2. Roll up your clothes to save space. Doing this will mean you can fit twice as many clothes into your bag. This takes a little time and preparation so don’t leave it all to the last minute.

3. Does your cruise have a formal dress code for dinner or special events? Gentlemen packing a blazer should fold it inside out – this way you will avoid wrinkles and creases. Ladies packing fancy dresses should use old dry cleaning bags to protect their formal wear.

4. Pack shoes at the bottom of your suitcase. These tend to be the heaviest items in your luggage so you don’t want them crushing and crinkling everything else.

5. Bring a few plastic bags with you! You never know when you might want to separate parts of your luggage. You don’t want wet swimming shorts or muddy shoes to spoil the rest of your luggage. Plastic bags can also be used for any liquids you may bring, meaning they don’t spill out in transit.

6. If you are travelling on a long cruise, bring some extra clothes hangers. Cruise lines tend to provide you with some hangers, but it can be frustrating not to have enough. Wire ones are easy to pack and more or less disposable, making them the best choice.

7. Pack a power strip. This is a classic cruise tip. Cruise cabins will have one or two outlets but if you plan on charging more than just your phone (think hairdryers, straighteners, games consoles) then this is a very useful item. Compact power strips are easy to get hold of. Unfortunately some cruise lines won’t allow these, so it’s always best to check.

8. Pack a jacket, even for a warm weather cruise. This is obviously essential if you are travelling to Alaska or Norway on a cruise. But even if you are going somewhere warm, it can get breezy and cold out on the open ocean. Be warned!

9. Thread necklaces through a straw. This may sound a bit weird, but it will ensure your jewelry doesn’t tangle and you look great at dinner. Use a pillbox to pack any smaller items like rings and earrings.

10. Always bring your favorite toiletries with you on a cruise. While ships will have basic toiletries on board, it’s best to pack any special potions you may require!

For more information on ocean cruises, take a look at the websites of experienced providers. Otherwise, pack clever and enjoy your holiday!

Photos by sagesolar and Myria via Flickr Creative Commons

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Best Romantic Spots in Bucharest

Bucharest, Romania’s capital city was once nicknamed as Little Paris or Paris of the East. And for a reason. Its glorious architecture made it one of the most beautiful cities in Eastern Europe in the beginning of the 20th century. However, most of the elegant buildings were destroyed during the years of communist misrule and a terrible earthquake. Today, the city is a mix of some pearls of that old sophisticated architecture, gray Soviet blocks, and modern buildings. Bucharest can’t be called the most romantic city in the world but it has a lot of nice places to see and visit with your loved one on your romantic trip.

Romanian Athenaeum

One of the most beautiful buildings in Bucharest is the Romanian Athenaeum. This is a glamorous concert hall built in the neoclassical style. It can boast luxurious exterior and interior. Doric columns and 40-meter high dome make it look like an ancient temple. The interior walls are decorated with mosaics depicting scenes from Romanian history. This is the home of George Enescu Philharmonic where you can listen to classical music.

Stavropoleos Monastery

This tiny but lovely church is a real gem of Bucharest. It’s built in the Brancovenesc style (Romanian Renaissance) combined with some Byzantine elements and Romanian architectural forms. The church is elegant and beautiful both from the outside and inside. Paintings and frescoes, wood and stone carvings can be seen inside. It’s known among the tourists for its rich library that features a collection of over 8000 books on theology, byzantine music, arts, and history.

Cismigiu Gardens

This is the oldest park in Bucharest. Although it’s often referred to as a park, it’s actually a 17-hectare garden. It’s located in the center of the bustling city so people come here to find peace and relax. Take a stroll among the lawns and winding paths surrounded by numerous trees and exotic flowers brought here from the Vienna’s botanical gardens. There is a lake so you can rent a rowing boat and explore it in summer or skate in winter. The Roman Garden laid out in the style of ancient Rome is probably the most romantic place in the park.

Palace of the Parliament

You can’t miss this administrative building because it’s so huge and impressive that you’ll notice it immediately. Situated in the historical center of Bucharest it attracts people’s attention by its dimensions and architecture. It is not less pompous inside and you can visit it via a guided tour.

Mogosoaia Palace

Treat your partner to a day of royal relaxation on the territory of Mogosssoaia Palace located 10 km away from Bucharest. Although the area where the palace can be found is far from impressive (it’s a rural landscape), the building and its courtyards are astonishing. The palace is open for visitors so don’t miss the chance to get inside and get lost going from room to room climbing spiral stairs. Also, visit the basement, a church, and a small house that serves as a museum. After that, take a walk in the gardens along the lake. Since it’s not very promoted among the tourist, it’s never crowded so you can breathe in fresh air, enjoy natural beauty, and listen to the silence.

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Photo by fusion-on-horizons via Flickr Creative Commons

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5 Awesome Places To Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth In Valencia, Spain

It's no secret I have a sweet tooth. I simply love everything from cakes to pastries and ice cream. So wherever I travel, I always try to stop by the most famous bakery in town. But in Valencia, I want to recommend you 5 places that you should really try. No worries, they are all centrally located and within easy reach.

Dulce de Leche Boutique 

This is my favorite pastry shop in Valencia, hands down. Walking inside any of their shops (they have two) is like stepping into a sweet, sweet wonderland. Many of their cakes are made with dulce de leche, of course, one delicacy I'm not entirely sure how I was able to live without until recently. But my absolute favorite is their dulce de leche coffee - simply the best combination!

Chocolates Valor

If you love decadently thick Spanish hot chocolate, this place is for you. Over the past 130 years, Chocolates Valor has become an institution. Their menu is quite extensive, ranging from the must try hot chocolate with churros and chocolate shots to chocolate slush and some really creative chocolate desserts.

Marzipan fruits

Okay, so to be completely honest, you'll have to visit Valencia at the beginning of October if you want to eat any of these adorable marzipan delicacies. They are only produced in the days before the Saint Dionis celebrations, the local patron saint of lovers. I love marzipan in any shape or size, but these fruit and veggie shaped specialties, are among my favorites. Hot tip: they taste even better when they have an egg yolk filling. 

La Mas Bonita

This is another place that made waves when they opened in Valencia a few years ago. Back then, their only restaurant was by the beach. But in the meantime, they also opened a more central restaurant, in the Russafa neighborhood. They have an abundant gastronomic offer, from breakfast and brunch to a lunch and dinner menu. But I recommend you visit them for their red velvet cake made with cheesecake cream. Finger licking good!

Pasteleria Dulces Martin

This pastry shop has been around for many years and they pride themselves on not using any frozen products, while also staying true to the traditional baking methods. But forth and foremost what you should try here is their terrer, a typical Valencian cupcake, made after a recently rescued old recipe. Terrer is a moist cake with a hint of orange and a delish layer of burned turron on top. Can you say no to that? I know I can't!

For more food goodness and travel inspiration, join me on Instagram.
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