Tag Archives: airport

Istanbul’s new airport: humungous, ambitious – and delicious!

A new airport has opened in Istanbul! And about time too, for the former main airport had long since been overstretched but couldn’t be expanded because it’s in the city itself (it’s now used just for cargo, business and other unscheduled flights), while the national carrier has been impressively expanding its geographical spread of destinations around the globe. Woah: a quick glance at Wikipedia tells me that that geographical expansion is so impressive that it’s given Turkish Airlines the highest number of countries served by an airline – a whopping 121! The second highest is Air France, but way behind TK  with just 91. Turkish is also sixth in the rankings of most destinations (304 cities) served, with only international cargo and US airlines ahead of it (i.e., hardly the fairest of comparisons). It’s also tenth in the world on fleet size – again behind US/Chinese/postal behemoths (and Ryanair:). But I digress…

So it was logically decided some years ago that Istanbul needed a new, bigger airport hub – a grandiose one; therefore one was built on a greenfield site outside the city. It’s size is 6 x 4.5km; it has four (!) runways each four kilometers long; and a gigantic terminal some 800×400 meters (that’s the main building, not including all walkways to the gates). In a word three words: oh my ginormous!

Here’s the view from up top:

Read on…

German triangle.

The other week I pulled a three-day Russia-Germany triangle: Moscow – Munich – Berlin – Moscow. Though it wasn’t such a long-sided triangle, it all the same was a toughie, as so much was packed into my itinerary. However, I didn’t even manage to get myself to Munich itself, only having got as far as its airport. But then, Munich Airport has its own… brewery, so I wasn’t complaining ).

The brewery is right in the middle of one of the airport’s restaurants too – so that’s two unusuals already; I wondered if the beer was going to be unusual too…

Read on…

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GALÁPA-GOSH – PT. 9: Now you’ve seen it all.

Our oh-my-Galápa-gosh adventure was fast drawing to a close; just one day, one night and a morning, and we’d be heading home. Though this unwelcome end to the trip loomed heavy on our minds, inevitable Ecuad-awesomenesses still lied ahead for us…

Next stop: the northernmost point of Rábida Islandhere. Dark brown-red beaches and rock, and lots of fur seals. Sure, they lazed around on the beach alongside tourists also lazing about on the beach, but we were used to that already. No, here there was a bonus – a very special, unforgettable bonus – which also served as the day’s Ecuad-awesomeness: they’d swim together with us in the ocean!

Swimming with fur seals is insanely fun. They twist and spin and turn around you for a while, then go off and do the same around another tourist, then come back for a repeat performance, perhaps with the addition of some crazy acrobatic somersaults – and it goes on like that forever! They never stop!

And we even got them on video:

Ahh. So much fun and positive vibes.

And ashore – all that Martian redness: fairly monumental:

And of course, lots and lots of cacti, which turned out to be Opuntia. Sure – I’d seen cactuses shaped like that on windowsills back home, but it was only when we got up close to them here did we realize just how massive they are here:

Suddenly, mommy pelican feeding her little one. Oh my gastroscopy!

Peek-a-boo, we see you!

More boobies in their brightly-colored boots:

A fine feathered species all on his lonesome looking out to sea. Looking for his dinner, maybe?

And the icing on the cake, or – rather – the dessert to our whole Galapagos trip – a beach that goes by the name of Espumilla on Santiago Island, aka San Salvador – here. We strolled along it, our mood still a little low since this would be the last beach of our expedition.

The definition of ‘easy pickings’? These here pelicans gobbling up these here fish that washed up on the beach with some waves!

Btw – I used the right metaphor when I mentioned ‘dessert’, for it turns out that ‘espumilla‘ is a popular dessert in Ecuador! I don’t know what it tastes like, but if it’s as nice as this beach – I want some ).

The following morning was a corker: beautiful weather and………. SEX!…

Tortoise sex, that is ).

Yes, that’s what those frisky tortoises get up to – at Black Turtle Cove – here. And why not? Only natural wanting to propagate one’s species. Perhaps we shouldn’t have taken pics; how would we have liked that? )

Not only did we take pornographic photos, we also learned all the ins and outs of the mating process here from our guide. Apparently it takes a full six (6!!) hours. And the poor female there is underwater for a lot of that time. Well she needs to come up for air occasionally – like in the following pic. Or, sometimes they swim/copulate on their sides so there’s no need to come up for air )).

Occasionally other males swim up to the action hoping to get in on it. Oh my gosh. What? Tortoises doing threesomes? Or more? Tortoise orgies? Well. Now I – and you – have seen it all )).

Meanwhile – check out the pesky voyeurs:

And on that jolly note, I end this Galapa-gosh series. Here was the day’s schedule:

Next up for us – ship, airport (for our morning flight)…

Next morning at the airport, we fancied a drink of water from the empty café in the corner. Some of us wanted just hot water, and found out it cost a full two (2!) US dollars. What?! Maybe that’s why the place was empty? )

As if to make up for the hot water extortion racket in the airport, the plane that awaited us on the apron was brand new, and it was a new-to-me airline too – Avianca:

We flew over Guayaquil once more, checking out both its poorer and richer parts, and further onward we flew…

…And back to Quito.

Now, some aromatic bitters I think, to help the digestion of all those dishes of Galapagos. And there’s no better digestive aid than… reading maps, as you’ll know ).

But first, we need to get to grips with the local place names on maps of this part of the world. See, theses islands were discovered by the Spanish, then the English, then again the Spanish, and each time (almost) every island earned itself a new name!

So, herewith, the various names of the islands we visited (going form north to south and from west to east:

Manage to digest all that?!

So totting those up – that comes to eight islands we visited.

Now for the particular places on the islands we disembarked at:

  • On Santiago: Espumilla beach / Buccaneer Cove
  • On Bartolomé: too small for place names
  • On Rábida: ditto
  • On Baltra: airport
  • On Santa Cruz: Los Gemelos / Pit Craters / Twin Craters; Cerro Dragon / Dragon Hill; Caleta Tortuga Negro / Black Turtle Cove!
  • On San Cristóbal: Cerro Brujo / Witch Hill; Punta Pitt / Pitt Point
  • On Floreana: Post Office Bay and Cormorant Point – no Spanish names
  • On Española: Suarez Point / Punta Suarez; Gardner Bay

Ok. Now, finally – the cognac and cigar! – bring out the route map!

So there you have it folks, the Galapagos Islands – from top to bottom. Highly recommended, it goes without saying. They’re a pain to get to, the whole trip ain’t cheap, and the boat rocks a bit too much for comfort for some; but the raptures, the impressions, the emotions, and the future memories – I think they more than compensate for all that. But don’t take make word for it – have a go yourself! You wont’ regret it.

Over and out from the Galapagos folks!

All the Ecuador pics are here.

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Mystifying Morocco.

Hi folks!

Now, if you’re a regular reader of this here blog of mine, you’ll know how I like to keep things positive. No matter where I am, no matter the weather (mostly), no matter how jet-lagged, no matter how tired… – I keep things cheerful, cheery, chipper and chirpy. But sometimes, just occasionally, I find all that jolliness is tough to maintain. Not sure why. Maybe it’s something to do with the poles or the moon and tides. Anyway, I need my readers to help me find worthy places to see in Morocco (for my inevitable next visit) because this, my second time in the country, gave me very little to say ‘wow’ about…

Morocco has a long and rich history, so much so you can become engrossed reading about it once you get started. Especially the bit about the fossils of very early (from more than 300 millennia ago) Homo sapiens/Neanderthals. So careful with that link folks: it represents a black hole for your precious time. Worth it though: it’s the history of mankind, no less.

Today, there are suburbs that are more salubrious than the norm – pretty red residences, even new developments of villas with swimming pools in the back garden (as seen from the airplane), but these are very few and far between. Mostly here there’s a marked absence of luxury and other well-to-do-ness.

And, of course, being in Africa, the climate… yes – it’s no Faroese affair ). Hot and humid. In short, not my cup of tea, to put it mildly.

Now, given these unfortunate downsides, I did during my recent stay in Morocco wonder why the place so popular with tourists? Was I checking out all the wrong places in the country? Was I here in the wrong season? What else could I be getting wrong? Could any of you, dear readers, shed any light on this? What are the must-see places in Morocco I’m missing?

This was my second time in the northwestern African country. I was here back in 2012 for a conference in Marrakech. That time I was fairly in raptures about that ancient city with all its backstreets and hustle and bustle. So I’m warming to the theory that I may have got the season wrong.

Another thing: Marrakech isn’t by the sea. Maybe it’s the coast that’s the tourist-magnet, much like, say, Surfers Paradise? Hmmm. There are also the Atlas Mountains – which I didn’t investigate up close. Maybe those too?

Aaaaanyway. My mood sure lifted from this unusual and unexpected gloominess of mine when we reached our digs for the night: the Kasbah Tamadot. Just click that link and you’ll see why ). Talk about ‘oasis’?!

Btw: can you spot the telecommunications pole in the above pic?…

…It’s that single tall, thin ‘palm tree’ on the other side of the road from the hotel. Camouflaged!

This hotel belongs to none other than Sir Richard Branson

…And it’s this fact that attracts most of the guests here. Sometimes he’s here in person and everyone wants a selfie with him (poor guy; and he comes he to relax:).

A very nice place, as you can see. Plus the views all around – exclusively Moroccan:

The Atlas Mountains in the background:

Kunst and birds…

We got up nice and early the following morning – before it gets crazy hot – for a stroll up the hillside at the foot of which the hotel is nestled.

It’s quite high up here (1300-1700 meters above sea level), plus the Sahara isn’t far to the east, so the vegetation… well, again – it’s no Faroes ).

There’s Branson’s hotel:

In closing, a word about the airport…

A grandiose construction, super-modern, really nicely done.

Btw – what’s that alphabet there? Anyone know?

I’ve seen a zillion airports, but not many compare to this one. At least, looks-wise.

Because function-wise… I’ve never known a slower airport! Everything here takes ages! Passport control, baggage, taxis.. Even ‘fast track’ service is sluggish – its ‘fast-tracked’ passport control took five minutes – the actual ‘control’, I mean – not the queuing up!

Still, looking on the bright side – ok, things are slow, but at least the service is actually passenger oriented – and works. For I went and mislaid my trusty travel wallet – with all my travel papers and my two passports in it – while filling out all the forms at the airport. A while later – they found it, called me, I drove back to the airport, and was returned everything. Respect!

But I’m afraid that didn’t make up for the 40-minute security check – just to get into the airport!

Then another 10 minutes for the other security check after passport control.

Then the five minutes while they check every page of my passport!

So again folks – please do tell me what I’m missing in Morocco, why am I… not ‘getting’ it? )

PS: Oh, and guess who was staying at the Virgin hotel?…

…Yep!

All the photos from Morocco are here.

 

 

 

Japan quakes. Japan shrugs.

Not long after leaving Japan, I read in the Russian press that there’d just been an earthquake there causing several deaths and a ‘transportation collapse’! Oh my Geiger, I thought, and quickly looked for more details on other sites on the web. Well, sadly they were right about the deaths – a few dozen, but ‘transportation collapse’? The earthquake was registered as a 6 on the moment magnitude scale. Sure, it gives everything a real good shake – but it doesn’t knock you, the dog, or the furniture over.

And ‘trains grinding to a halt’ (the article went on)? Of course they did; they’re meant to: special systems are installed on all the railroads to make the trains do just that! And besides, in Japan, there’s a magical 15-20-second warning sent out to all cellphones before an earthquake hits! How on earth that is possible I have no idea, but it sure is massively helpful. I’ve seen it for myself (back in 2011): we were in a car and a local’s mobile emitted a warning signal (so we quickly pulled up), and 15 seconds later the lampposts and traffic-lights started shaking along the road (it turned out it was aftershocks of the (9-magnitude) 2011 earthquake).

In Japan, all buildings, all roads, all bridges, all towers, all infrastructure – it’s all designed and built specially so as to withstand strong earthquakes. Even a 9-magnitude quake damages very little at all! So magnitude-6? You can work that one out yourselves ).

Sure, there’s rail disruption. Sure, the airports aren’t firing on all cylinders. But that’s it. And after a while – everything automatically starts to move and fly again. Japan is quite ready for earthquakes; it has to be.

Ok. That’s enough about earthquakes…

So, anyway… What were we doing in Japan in the first place? A few things; one of them – attending Interop in Chiba (near Tokyo):

Read on: all here!…

Polar-tropical contrasts.

Hi boys and girls!

Been a while, I know, but I’m back – and with loads of on-the-road tales to recount that have piled up…

Right now I’m in Terminal 5 of Heathrow Airport, which is fitting: I’ve seen a lot of airport terminals just recently, but I haven’t had enough time in the departures lounges to keep up with events as they’ve been happening – as they’ve been happening so fast and furious and frequently and non-stop. I’ll at least make a start with some catch-up here…

I really should start where this recent spot of globetrotting began a few weeks ago – heading to the North Pole! But… Since I still don’t see much free time on the horizon for extensive travelogue writing and photo editing, I’ll settle for just this one interim post for now to keep things bobbing along on this here blog, and it will have to be a relatively brief one (I’ll do the proper catch-up a bit later once I get home). It’s one about some mind-boggling contrasts I’ve seen over the last few days…

Now, returning from one of the earth’s poles back to civilization is always a bit lot of a shock to the senses. From a place where there is literally nothing but cold, ice, snow and blue sky, to a place where there is warmth, no snow or ice; supermarkets, roads, pubs, offices, Wi-Fi, drinkable tap water and all the rest of civilization’s better features… well, you get the picture: it’s always going to blow the mind a touch and take some time to acclimatize…

Read on…