Wednesday, 15 April 2015

A few of my favourite things about Innsbruck

My first home abroad was an one bedroom flat at the end of a dead end in Innsbruck. At Löfflerweg str.! When I arrived at the lovely cute Austrian city and saw the apartment, it was late at night and dark. I became seriously worried due to the distance from the center, the steepness of the road and its remote position. In the morning, everything seemed much better, as it often happens. The distance was not so big after all. Just a 15 minute walk through an aristocratic neighbourhood. The abrupt street to the house was just a nice way to keep fit. The position was quiet and offered an amazing view. 

As my first residence outside Greece, Innsbruck deserves the first list of a few of my favourite things :

1. The locals are always up for sports. The Austrians ski literally like pros from age four to eighty four. Skiing is as natural to them as walking or breathing. I was particularly excited to see handicapped people enjoying the fun of winter sports, as well, using special equipment.

2. The main means of transportation are bicycles. The bike roads run through the whole city and are very picturesque. Twice a day I was cycling along the Inn river to arrive at home, gazing at the impeccable beauty. Longboards, skates, inline skates were also very popular. Some young parents used to have trolleys dragged by their bicycles, were the babies were sleeping comfortably. It should be noted that the regulations about the lights are strict and are actually implemented. I once saw an officer giving a ticket to a rider that had no lights, while the snow height was over a meter. I reckon that it was not a delightful task for the officer and certainly not for the offender, who had to pay 20 euros for each nonexistent light.

3. Leberkäse was my favourite treat. I used to buy it during the uni intervals, from the  nearby supermarket or bakery. It costs close to two euros and is warm and tasty. A Semmel, Leberkäse, ketchup and mustard. Yummy!

4. The dress code was always sporty. Even at the clubs, people put on a snowboarding jacket, beanies and sneakers. Only at the Uni's oral exams everyone revealed a smart attire under the usual snowboarding jacket. Boys wore a suit and girls heels and pencil skirts. Unaware of the custom, I showed up in jeans at my Philosophy of Law exams. When I realised that the smartly dressed students were waiting outside the same door as me, felt I wanted my fairy. Where is she really every time I need her?
    New year's party and fireworks at Cloud 9 Igloo Bar
5.  The big,  modern Universitäts- Landesbibliothek had always the latest international newspapers hanging on one wall. As a student I enjoyed the privilege to borrow books through a self check out machine using my own student card. A Criminology book about Serial Killers had given me a neck pain because of the many times I looked behind me in the dark deserted Löfflerweg. 

6. At Christmas, the city looks like a fairytale scenery. Christmas Markets offer the traditional Wurst, hot chocolate, Glühwein, crepes, Christmas events, rides with horses, but mostly they create that magical atmosphere. You feel that there is no better place to be in Christmas than just there.

Old Town at Christmas

7. Pets are also enjoying quality life in Innsbruck. For instance, taking out the dog on roller-skates is undeniably a mutual fun! 

8. Treibhaus was my favourite venue. It has two stages for live music and a cafe bar. The     atmosphere is cheerful and the customers pleasantly alternative. 

9. For those who won't fly unless they hide a Masticha drink, a Lexotanil and various herbal anti-stress remedies in their cabin bag, Innsbruck is an amazing start point for their Europe trips by train! Its strategic geographic position favours trips not only inside Austria, but also Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Lichtenstein and Czech Republic. For young travellers (-26 yr), there is a discounted Vorteilscard, that offers multiple benefits. 

10. Once I overheard a man on the next table to talk about Zivildienst, an alternative civilian service to the compulsory military service. After I received that information, I started observing more closely some unusual for a Greek incidents. At supermarkets, people on wheelchairs were  often escorted and assisted by younger men. Maybe they were serving their Zivildienst, I thought. How much does that alternative change the lives of both parts!

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Saturday, 11 April 2015

The bridge over the Inn

In my last year of legal studies I needed badly to try life abroad. Hence,  Erasmus exchange Program was the answer for both continuing my studies and get to know a new European city. The list was out on January of 2011: UK, France, Germany, Italy and so on. Hmm. I saw a university in Austria that I haven't heard before: Leopold Franzens Universitaet. Google solved my problem. It is located in Innsbruck, the capital city of Tyrol, on the west part of Austria. During winter it is the place to be, because of the numerous winter sport possibilities in the area. Snowboard bought and Erasmus application complete.

Law school


At first sight, Innsbruck is the typical European city. It is neat, clean, organised, with an old town, identical beautiful buildings and the Inn river cutting the city in half. But at the same time, it is so much unique. The mountains, that surround the city, are protecting the valley from the bad weather and tear the clouds apart. Although everything is in order, there is no tension in the atmosphere. People, of all ages, are enjoying the nature and love mountain activities. When the sun is out, they head to the nearby mountains for hiking and mountain biking. 

When snow covers the mountains, the actual fun starts. Personally, I bought the Snow Card Tirol, which was the golden ticket to 87 Ski centres in Tirol. Due to my student ID, I had a discount and paid around 550 euros. It worths buying, if you intend on skiing for more than 15 times. There are so many choices for skiing close to Innsbruck. The closest, is just twenty minute away from the center of Innsbruck on a cable, Innsbrucker Nordkettenbahnen. I particularly loved Axamer Lizum and Patscherkofel, that are both less than an hour drive from Innsbruck.

Young sister in snow
Although, I did not experience the crazy Erasmus life, because the Erasmus students were not many, I travelled throughout Austria, met lovely German people and of course I skied a lot. After all, Innsbruck taught me that there are alternatives to a big city life, that if I go for them I would still be happy.

P.S. Thank you Marilia for the amazing photos!

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Friday, 27 March 2015

Snowboarding in Greece?

The touristic image of Greece is equivalent to blue sky, serene beaches and white houses. While indisputably Greece has this exotic side in the summer, during the winter more unknown choices are unfolding. The variety of greek sceneries is what I love most about my country. You can never get bored here. 

Once, a British windsurfer nagged about cold in Athens. He said that "It's supposed to be always summer in Greece". When I proposed to him to go snowboarding in the mountains instead of windsurfing, he merely believed me. We had to reach the ski center and actually see the snow in order for him to add some winter in the way he saw Greece.

After an awesome summer in Ghana and a not so exciting semester in Athens, I felt the dire need to descend a snowed mountain. Two ski centres are located within three hours drive from the Greek capital. 

In Peloponnesos the skiing opportunities are found on Kalavrita ski center. It is a cute ski center, with a snow park. Styga is the most interesting slope, which starts from the top and goes all the way to the bottom. Many experienced skiers are enjoying off piste skiing. Almost every weekend, events are running on KSC. There is also four all inclusive packages, that are ideal for a convenient snow trip, since they could combine accommodation, ski pass-renting, dinner. You can choose from  Full Pack, Light Pack, Ski and Full Pack, Ski and Light Pack. The prices are ranging between 5 to 25 euros depending on the special category of the ticket and the season. Coaches are frequently scheduled from Athens and cost 15 euros.

The ski center I picked this time is Parnassos ski center, that is the biggest and, as said in its advertisement, the best organised of the country. It is near the beautiful village Arachova and the archaeological place Delphi, that was believed to be the navel of the earth. The Temple of Apollo is  also worth visiting, as it is where the famous Pythia, the ancient oracle, after chewing the daphne leaves, uttered her Apollo inspired prophecies.   

On this season, millions have been invested on new lifts, that make the skiing safer and more pleasant. All that I would explore myself, if I woke up at 4.30. So I did, surprising even myself. The drive to Parnassos lasted 3,5 hours including the stops. At 9 o clock everyone was ready, wearing boots, gloves, even the gopro-cams were placed on the foreheads. Due to a strong wind though, we had to wait for three hours before indulging the perfect snow. Just about the time that the patience of some was running out, the lifts opened. Regardless the thick cloud that was going down every time I was at the start of the slope and vanished when I was on the lift, I had an awesome time. Surely snowboarding is like bicycle after all. Two seasons off the sport did not take a toll on me. :-P

For more information about skiing in Greece visit snow report..

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Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Oxford comma

An unbelievable sunshine was spreading all over Oxford. It is one of these cute little british towns, where the buildings are so pretty and harmonic that you feel that it must be a movie set. A river and each ever matching bridge fulfils the dreamy scenery. Some ducks are floating on the surface of the water. 

My sister had noted down some must-see places. One of these was Carfax Tower, the tallest building of the town on top of a cathedral, that you had to cross the church to approach the entrance. At the time the choir was having its scheduled pre christmas session. Once we had ascended the spiral stairs, we found ourselves in a very narrow balcony facing the incredible panoramic view over Oxford. The decoration of the tower looks a lot like the characters of the movie the Hunchback of Notre Damme.

View from  Carfax Tower

The most popular asset of Oxford is of course the University! It is the historical institution that major personalities have passed through, such as Steven Hawking, Oscar Wilde, T.S. Elliot, J. Locke, Tolkin etc. The entire town is based on the university and its students. Libraries are everywhere. The silent, almost sacred, gigantic rooms, that accommodate the wisdom of centuries. It is where the knowledge searches for new potent brains to nest and flourish. 

Bodleian Library

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Thursday, 12 February 2015

Love actually

The day that all the flower and the chocolate selling shops have been waiting for has arrived. In London the atmosphere bespokes an erotic Saturday night. The Pubs have prepared their Valentine's menus, various sweets have been baked in a special festive edition and the stores have decorated their windows with the eternal symbol of love, the heart. At this point I would like to express my childhood confusion about the real shape of this organ. Until not very long ago, I was under the impression that I have a cute little <3 in the middle of my chest. Suddenly, I saw a picture of the bloody, not at all cute, organ and I was very reluctant to believe that this was actually what was ticking inside me and even worse it is not even in the middle of my chest but on the other side of where the tic-toc sounds. 

At Notting Hill a lingerie shop had a pretty inspired window, making use of the new movie of the best-selling book, "50 Shades of Grey". It would honestly fit much better at a different kind of shop, a kinkier one, given the fact that in the movie the underwear plays a minor role compared to the Christian Grey's collection of erotic gadgets. I was just throwing an idea.. 

I have come to the conclusion that Valentine's day is not particularly devoted to the people in love. The business acumen of the club owners has reserved the single people the right to not hide in their single apartment and cry over their singleness until the day is over. The Anti-Valentine's parties are filling specifically that gap. Whatever you do this Valentine's day make sure you do it with love ;-)

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As British as you can get

The British are known for their devotion to certain things they love. Walking on the streets of London I made a list about some of those tremendously British things. 

1. The red telephone box, regardless the spread of the cell phones, is still decorating the UK streets. I could not actually picture London without the cute red boxes, which nowadays serve mostly photographic purposes.   

2. The identical houses with the red bricks, that are stuck to each other remind me vividly the magic residence of Harry Potter's godfather at the Number 12 Grimmauld Place. This house was invisible to the neighbourhood residents and had the magical ability to appear only to the selected wizard ones, pushing its way between the numbers 11 and 13. The muggle owners of the following houses put their own personal details. For instance, they give different colours to the doors, or they place discreet flower pots on the threshold. 

3. I wonder which is the amount of tea, that is anually consumed in the UK. I dare to guess pretty big. The traditional English tea is served with milk and a cube of sugar. Some tea shops offer afternoon tea which is pretty impressive next to the tiered cake stand. That three floor stand carries sandwiches, scones and cakes. While in Britain we payed a visit to the cute Camellia Tea house and tasted an amazing caramel salted cake and a red velvet. The cookies and cupcakes are also a British favourite habit, which makes a perfect match with the tea.

Red velvet cake

Ben's Cookies
Hummingbird Cupcakes
4. The Pub is another British love. Every Thursday the schedule includes drinks at the pub right after work. There are many kinds of Pubs. First comes the traditional one, that is usually located in a neighbourhood, and despite the bad microwaved food has became a venue. The decoration is rather minimal and darts are hanging on the walls. It is more than likely that a pool is on display and pool tournaments are taking place between friends and neighbours. The aroma of the place brings inevitably coherence to Beer. This kind of Pub mainly has male frequenters. On the other hand, there is another species of Pub a lot more posh and refined. It offers a larger range of traditional english  delicacies and I would describe it more like a Bar- Restaurant, except its architecture and the fact that it has a funny name as all Pubs do. The Queen's Head, the Idle Cook, Bucket of Blood, the Swan, the Mad Dog, Dirty Dick's and the list goes on and on. A useful tip is that most of the times there is no service at the tables, but you should order at the bar.

5. Fish and Chips has worthily earned a place on my list. It seems that when it comes to that chapter me and my sister were incredibly lucky, or the opposite (it depends on the point of view). She happened to live right above the most renowned Fish and Chip's of London: Mike's fish bar. In Mike's portion the chips are forming a pile and are wrapped on a greaseproof paper. Even for me it is almost impossible to manage one portion on my own. The cod is covered by a thin crust of breadcrumbs and it tastes literally nothing like the captain Iglo's fish sticks.

It is honestly hard to put a full stop, as the list could be much more extended than this. The double decker buses, the english breakfast, the driving at the left (aka wrong) side of the road, the strange habit of giving brands different names ( Opel-Vauxhall, Axe-Lynx), the bizarre beach houses, the stand up comedians, would all worth to mention. But then again I would spoil entirely the mystery of England. 

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