All posts by Vago Damitio

Vago Damitio  (@vagodamitio) is the Editor-in-Chief for Vagobond. He jumped ship from a sinking dotcom in 2000 and decided to reclaim his most valuable commodity, time. He bought a VW bus for $100, moved into it and set out on a journey to show the world that it was possible to live life on your own terms. That journey took him from waking up under icy blankets in  the Pacific Northwest to waking up under palm tress in Southeast Asia. Three years later, his first book, Rough Living: Tips and Tales of a Vagabond was published. After diving into the Anthropology of Tourism and Electronic Anthropology at the University of Hawaii (with undeclared minors in film and surf) he hit the road again in 2008. Since that time,he's lived primarily in Morocco and Turkey, married a Moroccan girl he couchsurfed with, and become a proud father. He's been to more than 40 countries, founded a successful online travel magazine (this one!), and still doesn't have a boss. Life is good. You can also find him on Google+ and at Facebook
Venice Italy

Five Free Things To Do In Venice

For anyone heading to Italy, Venice will probably be one of the first destinations that you aim for. A historical maritime trading republic cloaked (literally) in golden opulence, Venice’s “golden age” in the late middle ages and early modern period left it endowed with a unique legacy of neo-classical bronze artwork and architecture. It is this legacy that still continues to astound millions on a yearly basis. 

Unfortunately, this attractive wealth and prestige means that Venice can end up as a very expensive place to visit for the uninformed. However, you don’t necessarily need the bank balance of a Doge to enjoy the city if you know what you are looking for. Here are five of the best Venetian attractions that are absolutely free to visit and explore.

Ghetto Ebraico di Venezia

Venice Italy
One of the lesser known parts of Venice, the historical Jewish ghetto still forms the hub of Orthodox culture in the city. Exclusively home to Venice’s Semitic population between 1516 and 1797, the series of enclosed squares offers an authentic look at the traditional Venice that many feel has been lost in some of the more “touristy” areas. The five synagogues are well worth visiting, and Kosher restaurants abound for those so inclined. Please remain respectful while visiting; the area is still very much an active neighbourhood, and the Shabbat (Friday evening and most of Saturday) is almost universally observed.

Basilica di San Marco

Although many churches in Venice increasingly charge for entry, the iconic early twelfth century St. Mark’s Basilica remains completely free to visit. The spectacular Italo-Byzantine façade and soaring, elaborate exterior arches mark out the cathedral as one of the finest examples of classic Catholic architecture in existence. Inside and outside, the famous golden mosaics, latticework and painted domes provide visitors with a glimpse into a world of beautiful religious artefacts and artwork. Please keep in mind cultural concerns, in that you must be what the Catholic church considers “dressed respectably” to visit. Bare shoulders or limbs (above the cuff or lower leg) are generally forbidden for religious reasons.

Rialto Bridge

rialto bridge venice
A trip to this iconic building should be added to every traveller’s list of necessities (amongst travel insurance and so on.) The symmetrical white clad stone structure is instantly recognisable, and is considered one of Italy’s finest examples of late renaissance design. Built in 1591 to bridge the districts of San Marco and San Polo, the Ponte di Rialto gives (and contributes to) fantastic views of the heavily trafficked, world famous Grand Canal.

San Giorgio Maggiore

This small, unassuming island lagoon houses some of Venice’s best known landmarks. The seventeenth century church gives the island its name, and the striking marble façade is well worth seeing. It is also worth making time to take a good look at St. Mark’s Campanile. One of the defining symbols of Venice, the bell tower and clock mechanism are available for viewing if you pre-book a guided tour.

La Zecca (The Mint)

venice italy
The historical mint of Venice may not immediately strike you, but it is one of Venice’s best kept secrets. The mint served from the sixteenth century as Venice’s main source of currency, and the elaborate, rich decoration that remains in place is reflective of that former status. Often home to special exhibitions, the building now houses most of the main reading rooms of the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana.

bony company in Turkey

Ancient Art That Will Blow Your Mind at the Antalya Museum in Turkey

Cultural travel in Turkey is as near as the closest museum or historic building, but some museums stand out more than others.Antalya offers historic sites, yacht tours, and rock festivals.

Holidays in Turkey can be the dream of a lifetime.

The Antalya Museum is a masterpiece. It was another of those strange winter situations where I was just about alone as I strolled through the museum’s displays. Well, almost alone.
bony company in Turkey To get to the museum, I just walked along the seashore past the strange abandoned amusement park, past the young couples making out on park benches, and past the single guys (who are probably the same age as me but look older because they are Turkish, single, and drunk at 10 am on a Sunday morning) who were drinking beers on park walls and creating the odor of piss at scenic viewpoints. Given the choices, the company in the museum was just fine.

The cost of a ticket was pretty steep at 15 lira but starting with the dioramas and the figurine displays, I have to admit I enjoyed myself in my stroll through the museum.Eating Turkish Style

The museum is reached by going down Cumhuriyet Caddesi or you can take the cute little tram that goes down to the edge of Konyaalti Plaji which is a beautiful beach with no sand but lovely stones all over the place. At first I thought I should ask someone to turn on the lights but it wasn’t necessary because there are motion detectors so as I walked Museum of Antalyathrough the empty halls with my shoes echoing as they hit the floor, suddenly an eerie light would switch on illuminating Eros, Zeus, Apollo, Artemis, or Athena. In addition to the statuary there was also an interesting display of coins, stone age tools, and even a few mosaics. The coins were particularly cool because they were displayed in ‘hoards’, that is the treasure troves that had been found. Thousands of gold coins? No. But hundreds of gold, silver, or electrum.antalya mosaic

While I had a great time in Antalya, there were a number of things that I didn’t do that I would like to. The rafting trips in the mountains nearby are supposed to be pretty spectacular and in particular the area around Olympos and Phaselis, Kemer, and Kas are reputed to be among the best rafting in this part of the world. The mountains are also reputed to be great for rock climbing and hiking. Since I was there in December and January, I missed out on this stuff.

boat trip AntalyaAlso, the Antalya boat and yacht trips are legendary. Apparently, there are some gorgeous little islands in the Gulf of Antalya and the scuba is supposed to be great too.

Antalya has a reputation as becoming one of the great cultural hubs of Turkey with Ballet, Symphonies, and even a Yoga School. Each year Antalya is also host to the Golden Orange Film Festival in the Autumn and in mid summer a big Rock Festival. music is obviously important in Antalya as you walk around you find statues of musicians in bronze. Not ancient musicians, guys playing electric guitar! Antalya Amusement ParkIn fact, one night after drinking beers with my new Turkish rock star friend Ozzy, I was very surprised to be walking home and find a statue of him!

In terms of other things to do, I met with one friend who told me that Duden Falls was a complete waste of time. Another friend told me that the most spectacular thing to see in the region is the ruined ancient city of Termessos. I can only go on that recommendation, but as with boobs the adage might apply that you’ve seen one and you’ve seen them both. However, apparently the beautiful thing was the setting and the fact that there weren’t busloads of visitors there as at Efes or Pergammon.

Overall, I have to admit that I enjoyed Antalya a lot. Filled with nice people, a lively expat community, plenty to see and do, a couple of great Jazz bars, and more than a little bit of beautiful stuff to see. I hope to go back again.

And you? What did you think of Antalya?

Old Town Antalya, Kaleici

Antalya, Turkey – The Turkish Riviera – Part 2

A cheap flight can get you to Antalya from anywhere in Turkey. Or you can take a bus. The bottom line is that Antalya is filled with beautiful old Ottoman style homes, gorgeous historical architecture, and the surrounding mountains and beaches are worthwhile any time of the year.

Kesik MinareAs I mentioned before, most of my time in Antalya was just hanging out, but for me, part of every day life is taking these incredibly long walks through wherever I might be roaming. In terms of visual enjoyment, there aren’t many places that can match Antalya. As the largest Turkish city on the Mediterranean Sea, it has a diversity of Roman, Ottoman, and modern architecture, a Roman Harbor, a delightful old town – Kaleici, and of course the scenic natural beauty.

A beautiful piece of Roman architecture sits near the city center. Gate of Hadrian AntalyaCalled Hadrian’s Gate, it was built around 1900 years ago when the Emperor Hadrian visited the city. The city went from various hands but sat longest with the Ottomans for about 600 years or so. After the Ottomans, it went back to the Italians before becoming Turkish after the formation of the Turkish Republic. All of that might explain the feel of this place with it’s big squares and beautiful parks.

Old Town Antalya, KaleiciKaleici, the old town is where you find most of the pubs, pensions, and restaurants. It sits beyond the famous clock tower which for the life of me, I couldn’t really figure out why it is famous. I’m not a fan of clock towers in general. Big Ben didn’t really wow me either. Oh, I forgot to mention one important aspect of Kaleici. Touts and rug merchants. Among the most aggressive in all of Turkey. As I was there in winter, they weren’t so bad, but everyone I talked with told me the same thing. When you blow these guys off, they are nasty. Too bad. the Ottoman houses in Kaleici are worth checking out though some of them seem so restored that one feels a bit like he’s visiting OttomanLand at Disney. Inside Kaleici, the narrow maze like streets start to feel a little like the medina of Fez (but not really so grand darling) except instead of donkeys- here you have to avoid motorbikes and cars. Ridiculous…

There’s an old ruin in the center, the Kesik Minare which was first a roman temple, then a mosque and then the Byzantine Church of the Virgin Mary. It was built around 200 AD. There are some other old buildings which I’m sure are fascinating to some…the Korkut Camii, Hidirlik Kalesi which is a sort of castle/tower from the first century AD. Roman Mosaic AntalyaBut the most exciting for me was finding a house that was being torn down and which had unearthed a Roman mosaic. This was an archeological dig without any barriers, any guards, and what looked like potshards and tilework scattered to the sides haphazardly.