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Riding the Blue Rustbucket on Lake Komani, Albania

By Leyla Giray Alyanak | October 14, 2012 | 9 Comments

When a guidebook calls it “one of the world’s classic boat journeys” there must be a reason. Here it is. You’d think such an extraordinary destination, a gateway to the Albanian Alps, would be easy to find, with hundreds of travelers making a beeline for the lakeshore. Not quite. But that’s part of the adventure.…

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Girona. Barcelona. David. Goliath?

By Leyla Giray Alyanak | October 7, 2012 | 12 Comments

How a smaller, more provincial town not only survives but thrives next to a much larger urban neighbor is a bit of a mystery. It’s common for people to visit Barcelona on weekend city breaks from around Europe, and the Catalonian capital’s name is the upstart darling of the travel set. How then can little…

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Guimarães, Portugal: Women, Hearts and History

By Leyla Giray Alyanak | October 1, 2012 | 2 Comments

What is that saying again… Behind every great man stands a great woman? That this would apply to a small Portuguese city was a bit of a surprise, at odds with my initial expectation of a more macho history. At first sight Guimarães is a typical town of the North: massive Catholic churches dedicated to Mary, orange-tiled…

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The Train in Spain Stays Mainly on the Plain

By Leyla Giray Alyanak | October 1, 2012 | 4 Comments

My decision to experience the 13-hour train journey from Santiago de Compostela to Barcelona was made by Paul Theroux. Maybe not directly, but The Great Railway Bazaar, The Old Patagonian Express and his other railway epics have always drawn me to lengthy train journeys. I craved the sound of metal on metal, the accelerated change in…

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Barcelona Highlights, Unconventionally

By Leyla Giray Alyanak | September 28, 2012 | 12 Comments

It’s not my first time in Barcelona but it’s definitely my most offbeat – and slightly adventurous: I arrived by train after a 13-hour journey from Santiago de Compostela, stayed in a luxurious flat, shopped for food at the upmarket La Boquería and was whipped around the city in a motorcycle sidecar. This came about because I applied –…

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Lello Bookshop in Porto: Stairway to Heaven?

By Leyla Giray Alyanak | September 17, 2012 | 2 Comments

I admit I have mixed feelings about this extraordinary little Art Nouveau stamp of a bookshop, repeatedly classified as one of the most beautiful in the world. I love books and could spend hours browsing so when I heard my group would be visiting Lello & Irmão in Porto I was ecstatic. This lovely haven…

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The Many Faces of Albanian Women

By Leyla Giray Alyanak | September 4, 2012 | 3 Comments

Albania was stuck in a time warp for 45 years under the dictatorship of Enver Hoxha and only emerged a couple of decades ago. Today it is rushing to catch up with the rest of the world and while some women are easily making the transition to modern times, others continue to live much like…

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