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
Taksim, Galata, Istanbul

Istanbul in Winter – Part 1- European Side

Istanbul just before Christmas was great Despite having to see my wife go to the airport and wondering if life was going to continue in Turkey for us. World travel, world life. This is it.

The first few days were composed of some rather intense web work and some long walks through Taksim, Sultanahmet, and Beyoglu. I’m lucky in that while I love seeing beautiful sites, I also love just wandering around and people watching. Istanbul TaksimTo me, walking in a city and watching the daily life of the inhabitants is better than going on a tour.

Dolmahbahce BosphorusOf course, it was a pleasure to wander the winding streets around the Galata tower and Galata Mevlevihanesi or to stroll down the waterside around the Dolmabahce Palace. Going up or inside didn’t interest me so much, I can find those pictures on the internet, but walking along the incredibly uncrowded streets of Besiktas and Ortakoy allowed me to really feel what Istanbul is like in winter. I can tell you, it’s pleasant.

Istikal Caddessi in IstanbulI stopped for coffee at a Starbucks in Taksim Square and as I have admitted before, living abroad has made me a fan of this coffee-house killing chain. In particular living in Manisa where a bad cup of coffee is the only option and it costs as much as a great one, made this particular stop a highlight of my days. Sitting and watching holiday shoppers, Chinese tourists, and the predatory young guys looking for love or money from female tourists occupied me for nearly two hours while I sipped a plain, black coffee.

Taksim, Galata, IstanbulWalking down Istikal Caddessi I was charmed to see a bright tram parting the sea of the crowd as they flowed towards Galata or the Cumhuriyet Monument with visions of credit cards in their eyes. Reaching the Galata Tower, I actually considered paying the 10 lira to climb the steps and look at the view, but then realized that watching the homeless guys drinking beer with their dogs in the park at the base of the tower was free and far more interesting than looking out from the Genoese Tower which was built in 1348. Later, I was told that the same view from the tower can be had from the Anemon Hotel next door for a total cost of zero.

Galatasaray graffitiWhat I missed that I hadn’t was a visit to Istanbul Modern which is reputed to be one of the best galleries in all of Turkey. I was too preoccupied watching the crowds and looking at the odd huligan grafiti that was on nearly every building. Galatasaray? Maybe. A future post on Turkish Soccer is certainly worth considering.

A walk across the Galata Bridge and back to my hotel, the Aya Sofia for more writing and fire solving on the computer. The next day strolls Istanbul in Winterthrough Gulhane Park and the outskirts of the Grand Bazaar plus some quality time spent eating great chorba and having good conversations with friends old and new at the Aya Sofia.

I was very pleased to meet a New Zealand couple (okay, she was really Argentine) who have spent the past two years living on a sailboat and cruising the Atlantic and Med. That’s a life I aspire to.

Of course, this is really my life. Walking and watching. It’s not an exciting party or a huge amount of distance. My travels are not really news-worthy, but they are interesting.

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?