I’ve been meaning for a while to add a ‘year in review’ post with photos from my hikes and cycles during 2016.
As well as trips within Ireland, these include excursions in mainland Europe, Asia and the US during my voluntary redundancy-funded travels earlier this year. Many of these were short, urban trips or hikes/cycles at tourist attractions.
I hope you enjoy these images and the impressions that go with them. If nothing else it’s given me an opportunity to go through some photos for the first time since I returned home.
Top image: Millennium Cross, Skopje, Macedonia
North Berwick and Tantallon Castle, Scotland
I visited the pretty seaside town of North Berwick on a day trip from Edinburgh in January. From here we walked the three miles to the 14th century ruins of Tantallon Castle, which overlooks the distinctive Bass Rock. It was a great walk not just because of the views but because it was with old friends I hadn’t seen in several years.
Westerplatte, Gdansk, Poland
Gdansk was the first stop on my travels. I headed out of the city a bit to see Westerplatte, the site where events in September 1939 led to the outbreak of World War Two. This was when the German navy attacked the Polish garrison in what was then the Free City of Danzig. The Baltic Sea was grey and uninspiring but there’s an interesting walk linking lots of interpretation panels and sites of interest including a lookout tower, barrack ruins and a huge Soviet style memorial to the Polish defenders.
Walking tour in Wrocław, Poland
I have to include Wrocław seeing as I quickly fell in love with this gorgeous, lively and confusingly pronounced city (try vrots-waff). I did an excellent walking tour here where I met some friendly fellow tourists and saw the city’s main sights including its huge Rynek (main square), Cathedral Island and the countless themed bronze dwarves which are synonymous with Wrocław. I found the city’s history fascinating: until 1945 it was the German city of Breslau and was resettled with Poles deported from Lviv in present day Ukraine.
Danube Cycle Path, Bratislava, Slovakia
I had a friend from home join me in Bratislava for a few days and we packed a lot in, including a day trip to nearby Vienna. One afternoon we walked part of the cycle and walking path that follows the Danube River through a number of European countries. We walked the few short miles to the Austrian border and enjoyed the views of Bratislava Castle, St. Martin’s Cathedral and the city’s unusual UFO Tower situated on a bridge over the river.
Kapuzinerberg, Salzburg, Austria
Because my European travels were mostly solo and via public transport, I didn’t get to experience any hikes in the countryside. I did take the opportunity to walk up this conveniently located hill in the centre of Salzburg though. The looped and at times steep route passed a monastery and a hilltop fort (now a restaurant) and gave excellent views of the city’s famous castle and surrounding Alpine countryside.
The Yellow Bastion, Sarajevo, Bosnia
‘Hikes’ in my whistlestop tour of the Balkans mainly consisted of walking up to viewpoints overlooking capital cities. These included the Yellow Bastion, an old fortification above central Sarajevo. It’s a short but steep walk and gives a stunning view over a city with a tragic still-recent history: the numerous graveyards dotted around the hillsides attest to this. I was up there on Bosnia’s Independence Day on 1st March and crowds of people had gathered at the large graveyard just below the viewpoint. The city’s somewhat neglected Jewish graveyard gave another great view.
Kalemegdan, Belgrade, Serbia
Belgrade and Serbia were an extremely quick stop: I arrived on an overnight bus and left on an overnight train that evening. What I saw of the city wasn’t overly pretty but I enjoyed the huge Serbian Orthodox Temple of Saint Sava and walking up to the elevated Kalemegdan public park. The latter is the site of Belgrade’s ancient citadel and overlooks the confluence of the Danube and Sava Rivers.
Vodno Mountain, Skopje, Macedonia
Macedonia at least got an overnight stay. One of the first things I spotted in its architecturally-bizarre capital Skopje was the huge Millennium Cross overlooking the city. Wanting to do at least one memorable thing in the country, I hiked the steep trails part way up Vodno Mountain (in inappropriate clothing for the increasingly hot temperatures) and then took the cable car to the 1,066m summit and cross. The views were incredible, over the city below and towards giant snow-topped mountains in the distance.
The ancient Rose-Red City was certainly a highlight of my travels, visited on a day trip from Amman. Seeing all of the main sights in four-or-so hours also made it more of a dash than a leisurely stroll – tiring in the exposed heat – but thankfully it’s a largely linear route. Highlights for me included the 1.2km long, narrow gorge known as The Siq leading into Petra, the Royal Tombs, and finally reaching the elevated Monastery at the end of the trail.
Part 2 of my Year of Review is now up, with more 2016 highlights from Asia, the US and back in Ireland.