Se a vida é: My “small but lovely” 2021 travel review

Se a vida é: My “small but lovely”  2021 travel review

Happy New Year to you! I hope you entered the new year being well, healthy , optimistic and full of travel plans! The 2021 travel review is long overdue. As I sit down here at home to write this, I am looking back on one of the most intense, frightening, busy years   – work and life-wise, not travel wise! But a bit of travel made it in, despite the general state of Europe, and my small universe. Time for the annual  travel review?

The past year was  busy – and, being a medic, I expected that. We started the vaccination programme on 27th December 2020, starting with the most vulnerable, people living in assisted care, only to get the vaccine rolled out to the masses by way of large vaccination centres through summer. We dealt with the fallout from millions of cancelled surgeries, the emotional burden of the pandemic, the frustration from people… it was pretty intense. Just as the year came to a close, I saw a very sick child in one of my emergency clinics then spent an hour phoning various hospitals to find a critical care bed, besides looking after the critically ill child, and then it took us another hour to find an emergency doctor who would transfer the child. That’s another fallout from the pandemic  -one you don’t hear or read about too often.

And, you may ask, how can I go travelling at these times? Is there material for  a 2021 travel review Because, dear friends, travel helps keep me sane. At times like this, it is important to find balance and some rest to process and distract,  so travel I did, always within the legal boundaries, and always with plenty of vaccine on board.

A bit late this time, time to reflect how my 2021 travel plans panned out.  Well –  a lot of it DID happen, which I am very grateful about.

Venice in June

When finally borders opened again without having to quarantine or jump legal hoops, I went to Italy on a whim – with infection numbers really low, open borders and the minimum of legalities for the vaccinated, Italy was open for tourism again. In order to tie it up with work, I flew to bergamo and returned form Milan and spent more time than I wanted on crowded trains. The crowded theme continued on Venice’s waterbuses, where I thought I might put my vaccine on the endurance test.

On the whole, I felt really anxious, travelling solo after more than a year, but the tranquil atmosphere of my convent guesthouse in Venice and taking lots of long walks in Venice helped me get my footing about travel again, and I started to look forward to travelling again.

Venice Canale Grande seen from Vaporetto
First vaporetto ride after a long travelling drought – priceless!
And Venice seemed like it always was… 20 years ago, before the invasion of cruise day trippers
Nothing beats the ride along the Canale Grande, now matter how often you’ve been
Canale Grande with Neoclassical Palazzo Salviati and Renaissance Palazzo Dario
Restored mystical Ca’Dario (1487) on the right, and former Salviati Shop (1906) on the left
Canale Grande Venice
Unidentified Venetian Gothic splendour on Canale Grande
Hotel Bauer Venezia
The beautiful Hotel Bauer Palazzo – with its somewhat uglier 1930s sister in the background
Ca'Favretto Venice
But it’s not just grand palaces, but also smaller houses like 14th CE tury Ca Favretto (now a hotel) lining Canale Grande
Cannaregio Walking
Somewhat quieter Cannaregio, lovely for an evening walk and dinner
Quiet canalside near Carmini Church
Staying in somewhat more modest quarters between the port and the Frari Church, this did not lack in charm
Boats moored in Santa Croce, Venice
View into the quiet backwaters of Santa Croce
A view of a smaller Venice canal in quieter Santa Croce
About 90% of where I visited was quiet like this, perfect for getting my “travel legs” back


San Francesco della Vigna
So many magnificent churches with barely a visitor, but with a Bellini here a Negroponti there… totally worth the trek
Speaking of churches… San Sebastiano is a Must-see if you are into Renaissance art and Veronese
Small but excellent: Scuola di San Giorgio die Schiavone with paintings by Vittore Carpaccio

Blog posts

On visiting Venice after a long lockdown

How to shop useful sustainable and yet beautiful souvenirs in Venice 

Where to Eat in Venice: 10 places with moderate prices yet excellent quality

Thessaloniki and Sithonia in September

Somewhat unplanned, a “Plan B” holiday  after put plans to tour the Veneto and Croatia fell apart, this was a nice if too brief break after a very stressful summer. I had big plans for travel in autumn after the vaccine got rolled out,  but my mom’s husband got sick and declined sharply, so I tried to help my mom look after him. I spent all my free time shuttling the 200km to my mothers house and be on nurse duty.

At some point, I got so stressed I sat in A&E in the middle of my work day with severe chest pains and a fever, expecting the worst. This was the kick in the butt to find a new family doctor and take steps to more moderation – moderation in work, moderation in diet, moderate exercise… it took until the next trip for life to feel normal again, and this trip, as lovely as it was, I was feeling ropey the entire time.  We just booked the cheapest trip to a sunny destination, which was Thessaloniki.

With my husband having a penchant for Greece, a great choice although the weather was moody, to say the least – but sunnier than at home. Omly some hardy Russians would bathe off Chalkidiki’s beaches in early October, though!

A promising start, waking up in Thessaloniki after a night of vigorously throwing up
Walking round the Bezestani Market area – full of lovely shops and cafes
First stop, calm Neas Marmaras, only small hotels and quality tavernas
Second stop, more “beachy” Nikiti, with a small centre and a huge village in the hinterland


Old Nikiti on Sithonia, Chalkidiki, Greece
Old Nikiti, a short walk up from Nikiti resort makes for a beautiful leisurely walk
Cat in Greece
It would not be Greece without cats. Thankfully, most cats looked well fed


Thessaloniki Roman Forum
Thessaloniki – a great marriage of ancient history and modern city
Maroon Bottle Suites Thessaloniki - a great city centre hotel with spacious suites
Back pain days in Thessaloniki – Thank God we had a nice hotel!
The Excelsior Hotel, Thessaloniki
Several notches up, great architecture, but not quite our budget: The Excelsior Hotel, Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki and its Byzantine Churches: Many have elusive opening hours, but Agios Demetrios is one of the more accessible ones


Panagia Chalkeon Thessaloniki INterior
Panagia Chalkeon, an 11th Century Church right in the City Centre


Osios David
Osios David, a bloody awful climb but a rewarding sight and remains my favourite small church!
street art in Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki effortlessly marries art ancient and modern
Greek food: oven baked potatoes and peppers
Although I was quite sick, I finally manged some of the extraordinary food
Greek SAlad
Daily Greek Salad and not a single bad one

Blog posts

None yet. Work ramped up big time in autumn and I got an Netflix subscription and lied on the couch after work like  a vegetable.

Southeastern Anatolia in November

This continues to feel like a carefree, impromptu trip, even though I had booked the flight back in June when I spotted a cheap offer. I never thought the trip might happen as from early autumn, case numbers crept up again, only to explode some time before Christmas as the Omikron variant started to appear.

My small but lovely hotel room in Antakya
What to do after a 24hour journey? Drop unconscious in the hotel room! Best sleep ever



St Peters Church of Antakya
St Peters Church of Antakya – perhaps the most underwhelming church ever




Antakya Old Town
Quaint Antakya – pretty much under international tourism radar
Zeugma Mosaic Museum Gaziantep, Turkey
Moving on: Like in Antakya, there is an excellent Archaeological Museum in Gaziantep


Zeugma Mosaic Museum
Okeanos and Thetys… it’s all about mosaics at the Zeugma Mosaic Museum of Gaziantep



Pistachios of sale in Gaziantep
Pistachios (and good food) are another Gaziantep specialty



In terms of Shopping, Gaziantep was the best city of the region!
Coppersmiths Bazaar Gaziantep. Unlike Istanbul, fair prices and very little haggling
A regional Turkish hotel breakfast
Breakfast at my hotel in Antakya, heavy in olives, veggies and preserved fruit
Gaziantep breakfast
Tastiest breakfest in the simplest hotel ever, lovingly made by the lady of the house
A special Vegetarian meal at Imam Cagdas
“Half and half no meat” special request at Imam Cagdas, Gaziantep – easy to be veggie in Turkey!
kunefe in Antakya
Kunefe in Antakya, a local specialty, served here with a brick of ice cream at Cinaralti Kunefe
“Turpentine Coffee” a Southeast Turkey caffeine-free delight
Beautiful hotel courtyard in Sanliurfa
Another day, another cheap, atmospheric and super friendly hotel – here in Sanliurfa
Balıklıgöl of SAnliurfa
Balıklıgöl of Sanliurfa – a revered pilgrimage site




Narli Ev Butik Otel in Sanliurfa
What 10 Euro more buys you in Urfa… lovely hotel in old building next to Balıklıgöl



Finally… getting to visit Mardin after dreaming of it for so many years!
Mardin sunset
Mardin was touristy but super atmospheric
Another great, reasonably priced hotel with a superb view of Zincirye Medresa
Rustem PAsa Mosque Istanbul
“Buffer” afternoon in Istanbul – finally found Rustem Pasa Mosque and had a Turkish bath

Blog posts

As with the Greece trip, none, although I made a half-assed attempt to write one on entry requirements and travel practicalities (which should be easy to write, because Turkey is very easy to travel right now). It’s coming along, at least in thought, because I wish to re-visit Turkey and my research is pretty up to date.

Riga in December

A totally unnecessary trip, one might say, as work was ramping up as the dreaded coronavirus, bringing a new variant, caused a bit of trouble in Germany through late autumn and early winter. Christmas markets cancelled, confusing restrictions for culture, restaurants and shops, demand that all those vaccinated over the beginning of the year should now received a third dose…

My problem  of not having visited a “new” country in 2021 turned out to be a true luxury problem, but after a summer marred by illness and worry, this was a problem I did not mind having, and one I would swiftly solve. I found a flight for 25 Euro, shouldered a little backpack Friday after work, and spent a rather cold and drizzly weekend in Riga on the cheap.

House of the Black Heads, Riga, at night
Main reason to visit Riga: to catch a bit of festive cheer… and to visit a new country.
Did I spend almost an entire day looking at Art Nouveau architecture? Possibly.
I was so enamoured by the Art Nouveau and restaurants, only managed an early morning walk before my flight!
1909 Cat House of Riga
House with a cat? Had to visit, of course!
Three Brothers Houses in Old Town Riga, 2021 travel review
The “Three Brothers”, perhaps the most famous houses in the Old Town of Riga
Forest Restaurant Riga
Another great Riga thing: The restaurants! Nordic cuisine is everywhere right now, and Forest Restaurant was great!

Blog posts on Riga

None. I am a busy bee at work and a slow writer. Also, I spent, what, less than 48 hours there, so I can hardly call myself an expert. Found a nice super cheap accommodation, spa, and restaurant so I might write a little review post or something.

This was my 2021 travel review – how about an outlook for 2022 Travel?

Eek, Omicron Surge here as we write. I have a holiday coming up in two weeks and had grand plans, which are falling apart as we speak.

I also feel somewhat bad to gallivant about while our health service is somewhat creaking. No hospitals unable to provide a service like in the UK (yet). On the other hand, some recent study suggest Omikron to require fewer hospital admissions, but that study says its 15% less, so if there is a tenfold increase in infections, potentially knocking out a medical work force ten fold, too,  that’s not gonna help us much, is it? On the other hand, I am tired. After my last week-long break, I came back to work with renewed energy and motivation. I am vaccinated as fully as you can be, I am super careful, I test, and if I have not caught it yet is probably largely down to luck. A week of Omikron confinement probably beats a heart attack or burnout.

So, flights going as they should, and my intended destination remaining lockdown-free, I should be somewhere scenic and sunny soon.

Also, I have a big birthday this year, and wanted to travel somewhere “special”. From a cruise on a 1960’s Hurtigruten steamer to a tour of Italy’s finest hotels, I have had plenty of ideas but nothing stuck yet. I have tons and tons and tons of overtime, so perhaps I will take a little more time off, situation allowing, and just go on a few more trips this year and mind the budget a little less – who knows?


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