Skopje – The Millennium Cross

Just outside Skopje, high atop Vodno Mountain stands the Millennium Cross. An iconic landmark, funded by the Macedonian Orthodox Church, it celebrates 2000 years of Christianity in Macedonia and is a “must see” destination when visiting Skopje.

Getting to the cross can be as difficult or as easy as you want it to be since there are several different ways to get there…

First you can hike..several trails, marked for difficulty, begin at the base of the mountain and travel through the forest. The difficulty is based on the incline, which can be as much as 30 degrees in spots. The hike from the bottom to the halway point is fairly easy though and offers some outstanding views of the valley and the city.

Around the halfway point, there is a cable car station that will carry you to the top for a minimal fee of about 2 euros round trip..Unfortunately, the systems was under maintenance on our trip so we completed the journey by foot…Since we had started the hike at the beginning, this brought our distance walked to about 8km by the time we reached the top.

The scenery in early spring and the views made the trip well worthwhile.

At the top, there is a restaurant and snack bar, a covered patio with tables and chairs and several rows of benches where you can sit, relax (and rest) and enjoy the views before starting your way back down..

The hike back down to the halfway point was easier than the hike up but I would recommend checking to see if the cable car is running before making the hike..just in case. The round trip hike from the bottom takes a while and covers about 10 km.

As I said, there is an easier way…  If you are just interested in seeing the cross, it is possible to take on of the many double-decker buses to the halfway point and then cable car to the top.

A word of caution though…the buses require a transit card which start at 150 denar, again about 2 euros, per person. The card can be purchased from the driver and are good for 2 boardings. They can also be purchased and recharged for 35 denar a trip at bus stations and certain convenience stores.

Which ever route you decide to take, make sure you bring water and comfortable clothing and shoes. It can be chilly at the top with the wind blowing. I would also recommend buying the bus pass, even if you decide to hike both ways like we did..  Just in case 🙂

Happy Travels! 

 

 

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral – Sofia

One of the main destinations for tourists in Sofia, Bulgaria is the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral … dsc_2216

It is one of the largest Eastern Orthodox Cathedrals in the world….

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Built between 1882 and 1912, it stands as one of the primary symbols of the citydsc_2464dsc_2225

A must see on your visit to Sofia..

Happy Travels!dsc_2134

 

 

Sofia International Airport

Sofia International Airport in Sofia, Bulgaria…

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New and modern…clean.. and virtually deserted when we arrived..

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Strange to me that people haven’t yet really discovered this city full of history and, amazingly, friendly people..

You can even get to the city center from the airport by way of the metro…Entrance is located at the end of Terminal 2….20 minutes later…Center of the city,

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Happy Travels!

A Day in Tver

Tver, Russia….

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150 km northwest of Moscow easily reached by train in about an hour and forty minutes.

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A pleasant day-trip from Moscow … monuments and cathedrals…the Volga River

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Pretty pedestrian area, classic architecture..

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Monuments and statues…

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A lot to offer when you want to escape the crowds of Moscow..

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Happy Travels!

 

 

Minsk National Library

The National Library in Minsk, Belarus…Just a short metro ride away from the center of the city… Surrounded by parks and cobblestone pathways…A striking sight and unusual building… Definitely worth a visit..

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A few minutes walk from metro stop – Uschod…   After your visit, take the time to walk through the neighboring park and stroll by the fountains and lake..

Happy Travels!!

 

 

 

1st Time – Minsk, Belarus

A new adventure in September…and the first time I have had to actually get a tourist visa for a place I am visiting … Belarus.

Since I don’t have photos yet, I thought I would outline the steps for getting a visa to Belarus. It’s not complicated but it is time consuming…

The outline below is mostly for people living in the USA but the same steps apply internationally with only a few modifications..

1. Passport 
A valid original passport  The passport must have at least two blank visa pages and be valid for at least 90 days after requested visa expiration date.
2. Invitation Letter
You will need an”invitation letter” ,of some kind, that outlines where you are staying and the dates you have reserved. Belorussian agencies are more than happy to do this for a fee, usually between 25-50 USD but you can do this on your own.  I made a reservation on booking.com and then e-mailed them and asked for a letter. They sent one by e-mail and it didn’t cost me anything and was perfectly acceptable to the Embassy. I also had an issue of accommodation pricing with the tour companies. They tended to be a lot higher than making my own reservation.
3. Application form (click to download)
The form must be completely filled out with no blank spaces must be left. If a question does not apply, type (or write) in “N/A”. If the answer is none, write “NONE”. Incomplete forms will be returned to the applicants UNPROCESSED.
4. Photograph
One photograph of the applicant should be attached (stapled or pasted) to the marked space at the upper right-hand corner of the application form.
The photograph must meet the following requirements:
  • taken within the last 6 months;
  • in color;
  • professionally printed in high quality on photo paper;
  • 45 mm high by 35 mm wide;
  • in sharp focus and clear;
  • taken on plain, light and evenly lit background;
  • taken in full-face view directly facing the camera;
  • with a neutral facial expression and both eyes open;
  • with no shadows, glare, noise or distortion on the image or background;
  • sized such that the face takes 70–80% of the photograph;
  • with no ink marks, tears or creases;
  • must not be retouched.
5. Insurance
You also have to show insurance that is valid in Belarus. You must have 10,000 USD in coverage and your insurance paperwork must be “International” or “World-Wide” and presented on company letterhead showing name of company, phone number, policy number and limits of coverage. I found that this was the most difficult document to acquire.
6. Envelope
If you are able to apply by mail, you should enclose a self-addressed and stamped return envelope showing yourself as both shipper and recipient. To prevent the envelope loss make sure that your envelope has a tracking number. (They don’t ship by Fed-Ex, by the way) If you live outside the USA, you actually have to apply in person at the Embassy or consulate.
7. Payment
A money order or a cashier’s check for visa processing payable to the Embassy of Belarus in the U.S. or Consulate General of Belarus in New York (depending on where you apply). They do not accept cash or personal checks. Outside the US, payment is made in cash, usually in the country of residences currency or Euros. In my case, it was Russian rubles…
Visa fees are calculated by the Tax Code of the Republic of Belarus. The visa fees are recalculated regularly based on the current exchange rate and can be changed without a notice. Make sure to check the check the schedule of the consular fees  before submitting a visa request.
Is a trip to Minsk and Belarus worth the effort?  I’ll let you know in a couple of weeks.. 🙂
Happy Travels!

Bratislava – Old Town, Early Morning

Peaceful … Quiet … Serene

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Not the words one would normally use to describe a touristy spot such as Old Town Bratislava..  But those words definitely apply if you manage to get out and about in the early morning…

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while the cafes and shops are closed – or just being set up for the day…Still waiting for the crowds of people wanting cappuccino or that “must have” souvenir.

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The quiet cobblestone street weaving their way through this picturesque capital of Slovakia are oddly quiet in the early morning hours…

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Those couple of hours before the hustle and bustle begins are my favorite times in a city…especially one I have never visited before

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Even though there are some people out, even early, the city still basks in the quiet… But now it’s time for cappuccino and preparation for the hustle and bustle to follow…

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Happy Travels!

Photography as Art