The Rock Church, Kampii Chapel of Silence and other Helsinki sites

Completed in 1969, Temppeliaukio Kirkko aka Rock Church in Helsinki, Finland is awe-inspiring!  It reminds me of a space ship and the ceiling resembles a fried egg.  Built into the surrounding rock (hence it’s name), it’s one of Helsinki’s most popular tourist sites.




Kampii Chapel of Silence is also definitely an interesting piece of architecture…


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Fortress of Suomenlinna

According to the UNESCO World Heritage site, the Fortress of Suomenlinna was built in the second half of the 18th century by Sweden on a group of islands located at the entrance of Helsinki’s harbour and consists of 200 buildings, 6 km of defensive walls, and stretches over six separate islands.

The purpose of the fortress was originally to defend the Kingdom of Sweden against the Russian Empire and to serve as a fortified army base. Sandbanks, barracks and various other buildings were added during the 19th-century Russian period.

After Finland gained independence in 1917, the fortress was renamed Suomenlinna (or Fortress of Finland) and served as a garrison and a harbour. The military role of the fortress declined after World War II, and in 1973 the area was converted for civilian purposes. Since then, buildings have been renovated to serve as apartments as well as workspaces, to house private and public services, and for cultural purposes.

Today, Suomenlinna is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Finland and constitutes a district of Helsinki with 850 inhabitants.

Jing, Paul, and I boarded the 30 minute ferry to the Fortress.



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Exploring Helsinki by Bicycle

On June 14th, my birthday, Jing and I left our Airbnb in Sibiu, Romania at 4:45am to walk 1/3 of a mile to the train station to catch our 5:25am train bound for Bucharest.  It was a six hour train ride and we met a nice Romanian man that upon learning it was my birthday, gave me a sealed bag of coffee and helped me with my luggage when we arrived in Bucharest.  He also negotiated with the taxi drivers to find the best rate to take us to the airport for our flight to Helsinki.  We encountered many rude people in service oriented jobs while in Romania,  but like anywhere, there are people like him that make up for it!

Our flight left at 3:00pm (15:00) and arrived at 7:40pm (19:40) in Helsinki.  We then took a 40 minute bus into central Helsinki, and walked 15 minutes to our beautiful Airbnb, arriving after 9:00pm (21:00).  The apartment is owned by a very special lady named Pirkko, who was there to welcome us.  Here is the living room…


The dining room…


and the kitchen where Jing was making us something to eat for dinner later the next day…


This Airbnb was by far the best-stocked place I’ve stayed at and Pirkko is such a sweet and generous person!  She knew ahead of time it was my birthday and had prepared a delicious cake for me and had a bottle of champagne.  She also let us use her bicycles while we were there and took us to the harbor three days later when we left by overnight ship for St. Petersburg, Russia.  Hugs to Pirkko!

Anyway, the following day, Jing and I set off on the bicycles to explore Helsinki…


This statue is hilarious!


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Sibiu, Romania has it’s eyes on you!

One of the first things I noticed while roaming the streets of Sibiu, Romania were the roof vents that appear to be eyes.  So cool!  If you’ve never heard of Sibiu, you’re not alone.  Before planning my Eastern European journey, I hadn’t either.  Sibiu was originally part of Germany and dates back to the 12th Century.  After World War I, it became part of Romania.

In 2007 it was designated the European Capital of Culture for the year, along with Luxembourg.  Forbes has ranked Sibiu as “Europe’s 8th most idyllic place to live.

My last post left off with having stopped in Sighasoara for a few hours on route from Brasov to Sibiu.  We boarded the 3:00pm train in Sighasoara, after picking up our luggage from the holding room at the train station, and arrived in Sibiu at 6:05pm.  We walked the 1/3 mile to our Airbnb and after settling in, walked to a nearby Supermarket for some breakfast items.

The following morning, with only one full day to explore, we set off to see this delightful City!


We wandered down this cobblestone street…


and decided to climb these steps…


We stopped in the lovely Holy Trinity Cathedral…


It was a perfect day for exploring…blue skies and comfortable temperatures!


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I’m in Love with Sighasoara

We departed on a 2 1/2 hour train at 8:52am ($7.50 per ticket reserved online ahead of time) from Brasov for Sighasoara, one of the most beautiful medieval cities in Europe.  We didn’t spend the night, just explored for a few hours, before boarding a train to Sibiu.  The train station has a place to store your luggage for a small fee.

The brightly painted houses and cobblestone streets were just so darn cute!


We stopped for lunch at an outdoor cafe and I had a refreshing lemon beer with my pasta…


Fortified with some food in our bellies, we climbed the 160 steps (we’re half way up at this point) of the Scara Acoperita where there’s a church and then we came back down.


A park bench, wooden door, and beautiful flowers provide the perfect setting for a photo…


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A Spooky Visit to Bran Castle aka Dracula’s Castle in Romania

Bran Castle aka Dracula’s Castle, situated 18 miles from the quaint and historical town of Brasov, is so much fun to explore!  Dating back to the 15th Century, there isn’t much evidence that Vlad the Impaler, who the character Count Dracula was devired from, had many ties with Bran Castle.  During our visit, there were school children running through the castle and visitors were allowed to freely roam the castle.

Here’s the courtyard…


The entrance to the castle is at the top of these steps…


A spooky stone passageway leading to…


The bearskin room…


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Beautiful Brasov, Romania

Arriving to Brasov, Romania via train in the afternoon after exploring the breathtaking Peles Castle, we checked into our Airbnb located conveniently in the Old Town, and walked to the Supermarket.  With only 1 1/2 days to explore, we were anxious to get started. 

The main square called Piata Sfatului, is full of life and beauty!    The large dark brown building in the background is called the Black Church and is over 500 years old. 


Children and birds are wonderful subjects to photograph!


The fountain at the square seems somewhat modern, but contrasts nicely with the historical architecture surrounding it.


I felt like I was dropped in a photographer’s paradise!


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Train to Peles Castle in Romania

The train from Bucharest to Peles Castle takes only 1 1/2 hours and what awaits you is simply magical!  I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “pictures don’t do it justice”, and in this case that is so true!  Researching the logistics of stopping to see Peles Castle on our train ride from Bucharest to our next Airbnb in Brasov, Romania, I discovered you could “supposedly” leave your luggage at the train station for a small fee.  Well, that’s not the case anymore.  Fortunately, a restaurant agreed to keep our luggage for a few hours while we explored the Castle.  We took a taxi that should have cost about 10 lei (but was 20 lei = $5) three miles to the castle located in the Carpathian Mountains.


Peles Castle (it’s actually more like a palace) is splendid!  I think someone came up with that word to describe it!  Wandering from room to room, I felt the excitement rising, wondering what delightful things we were going to see next.



Here are some interesting facts gathered from Wikipedia:

The collection of arms and armor has over 4,000 pieces, spreading over four centuries of history

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Bicycle Riding in Bucharest

I’m on a bus from Tallinn, Estonia to Riga, Latvia and have wifi…yeah!  Anyway, thought I’d continue on with my epic adventure through Eastern Europe.  For our second and final day in Bucharest I had planned to visit Tineretului Park, which was located about three miles from our Airbnb.  Upon arrival, we rented bicycles and discovered some beautiful features at the park…a lovely blue fountain to go with the blue sky…


A large clear green pond surrounded by a walking/biking path…


that’s me…


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Free Walking Tour of Bucharest

Walkabout Free Tour offers an informative and interesting free walking tour of some of the highlights of Bucharest, Romania.  After leaving Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria on a bus at 11:00am, transferring to another bus in Ruse, Bulgaria and arriving in Bucharest at 2:30pm, Jing and I took a 2 mile taxi ride to our Airbnb, where we hefted our luggage up to the fourth floor, which meant eight flights of steps!  I am determined to pack lighter for the next trip.  We settled in and walked a mile to meet up with the two hour walking tour. 

Some of the highlights they cover are the lovely Stavropoleos Convent…



The ruins of Vlad’s Citadel…


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Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria

Located three hours by bus from Sofia and perched above the Yantra River, Veliko Tarnovo offers visitors narrow cobble stone streets lined with stone houses and amazing views!


Dating from the third millennium B.C., Veliko Tarnovo is seeped in history and was the former capital of Bulgaria before Sofia.


I reserved a room for one evening at the charming Gurko Hotel situated in Old Town with a view of the lovely homes overlooking the river.


The Samovokska Charshiya area is within walking distance from the hotel and the streets are lined with cafes and traditional craftsmen such as wood sculptors, potters, iron smiths, and carpet weavers.

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Day trip from Sofia, Bulgaria to Rila Monastery and Boyana Church

With over a million visitors annually, once you visit the magnificent Rila Monastery you’ll see why people flock to it!  Located two hours drive from Sofia, it’s a “must do” for any trip to Bulgaria.  The original structures date back to the 10th Century, but due to fire and war, certain sections have been rebuilt in the 15th and 19th centuries.


The Monastery has been a spiritual and cultural center for Bulgaria throughout the years.




The colors are bold and the frescoes are quite lovely…


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Day trip from Sofia, Bulgaria to Plovdiv

The picturesque city of Plovdiv, is a wonderful day trip from Sofia, Bulgaria!  Ranked as one of the world’s oldest cities and located just two hours away by bus, you’ll find cobbled streets, art galleries, and beautiful architecture!  You’ll have difficulty trying to book transport ahead of time though.  I went to the Central bus station in Sofia at 7:00am and purchased one way tickets for myself and my tour participant, leaving at 8:00am.  The women working behind the counters at the bus stations are not friendly and at times are rude, but I’m sure it becomes tiresome having to deal with foreigners that don’t speak their language.


We joined a free two hour walking tour upon arrival through Free Plovdiv Tour that supplied us with some of the amazing history of Plovdiv and Bulgaria.  While making our way from the bus station in Plovdiv to the meeting point in front of City Hall I snapped a few photos.

The man in the above photo reminds me of a grumpy “Joker” and didn’t appreciate me sneaking a photo in.

This fountain is really cool!


Their pedestrian only walkway is quite lovely…


I always take photos of fountains!


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Sofia, Bulgaria in 2016

I’m writing to you from my European Odyssey through eight European countries and wanted to share my adventures while on the road!  Acting as a Tour Director through my site “Travel Spirit Meetup” I have one lady (Jing), whom I now consider a friend, that is with me for the entire 33 day adventure.  A gentleman will join us for six of the eight countries beginning in Finland. 

We arrived in Sofia, Bulgaria in the afternoon on June 4th and took a taxi from the airport to our centrally located and very stylish two bedroom Airbnb.  I love to stay in Airbnbs because they’re typically less expensive than hotels and you’re able live like a local, picking up breakfast items and food that can be prepared quickly from the local supermarket.




This was our view from the living room…


We settled in, stopped at the supermarket, and walked a mile to join a free 2-hr. walking tour of Sofia through Free Sofia Tour.  Our guide was very knowledgeable and enthusiastic and in addition to showing us the highlights of Sofia, she spoke of the changes in Sofia since the fall of Communism in 1989.


A few of the highlights were the majestic Alexander Nevsky Cathedral…


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Little of this and that in Turkey

These camels were on display in the village near where my group and I were staying in Kayakoy, Turkey.  I’ve ridden a camel in Egypt and have to say I found it to be the least comfortable animal for transport.


But with a face like this…


I was in the midst of speaking with a man about how to get to the tombs of Fethiye when I turned around and saw this lovely painting on the steps.


For the equivalent of $7.00 I had my hair shampooed and blow dried in Istanbul.  I didn’t bring my flat iron with me on the trip due to weight and it was nice to get rid of the frizzies for a few days!


In the town of Fethiye…


This kitty was near Kayakoy…


No matter where you are, there is beauty!