2016 is nearing the end, and what a year it has been. But I’ll get back to that. Today, true to tradition, we’re having a look at what you liked best here on Sophie’s World this year, according to Google Analytics. For obvious reasons, not many posts published in 2016 made the cut; the one that did was published at the very beginning of the year. As usual, articles several years old continue to do very well. But enough chit-chat. Let’s jump right in to the best of 2016!
New number 1: Caucasus! A fascinating region, and one I’d like to explore more of. But is it in Europe or Asia? I discuss that in this post – feel free to throw your 2 cents in.
1. Tbilisi to Yerevan
Travelling from Georgia to Armenia is easy: you can take the train, a marshrutka, or join this one-way day tour, comprising heaps of interesting sites along the way.
Rambling about in monasteries and ruins where snakes are rumoured to lurk is hungry work. We stop at the house of a local farmer who has set a table for us in the garden. The trees are heavy with luscious, ripe blackberries. Meat and potatoes sizzle on the barbie. Nothing rushed here. We stay a while, eating, drinking, laughing, climbing trees, playing with the kids and fellow travellers.
2. Things to do in Skopje
The Macedonian capital continues to fascinate, now more than ever. In 2008, I was one of few visitors, and apparently not a very believable one.
“Yeah sure,” he said. “Everyone says they’re writers and journalists. But in reality they’re with a company.” “And which company would that be,” I asked. Seriously. I had no idea what he meant. “The CIA,” he replied darkly. Without humour. Ouch! I hurriedly pointed to my red, distinctly non-US passport, but he was still sceptical. Apparently, Skopje was teeming with undercover agents. Along with quite a few KFOR soldiers who seemed to enjoy, shall we say, a varying degree of popularity among the locals.
3. St Moritz in September
From way back in 2011, this post is creeping up the list. Do you really like Switzerland – or is it my reminiscing just the teeniest, tiniest bit about a teenage romance…?
I want to like you, St Moritz. And I do. But you are not a beautiful town. The phrase ‘less is more’ would likely receive nothing but a sneer here. Sorry to hurt your feelings, but you’re a bit obtrusive, actually. However, what you lack in beauty, my darling, you make up for with your setting.
4. Pretty Trebinje
On the list this year again, this pretty little town is in Srpska (the Serbian part of Bosnia & Herzegovina), less than an hour from busy Dubrovnik.
What I discovered was a very pretty riverside town with mills, bridges, leafy squares, ancient city walls and an Ottoman old town. Despite its proximity to Dubrovnik, Trebinje is not at all a tourist town. In fact, what I really liked about it, was that the old town is simply a neighbourhood where people live.
5. Vilnius by Instagram
This wintry little glimpse of Vilnius was one of the first posts published in 2016. (Must admit, I’d rather you preferred this article about the thought-provoking KGB-museum in Vilnius – though a more challenging read.)
Vilnius has a new innovative attraction: this sculpture is one of 15 talking statues in Vilnius, a project by the city’s Modern Art Centre. Whether it’s Frank Zappa, the Angel of Užupis, or 19th century Lithuanian author Žemaitė, just swipe the QR-code with your mobile phone and the statue will ring you up and tell you a story.
6. Pyramiden, a Russian ghost town in the Arctic
Pyramiden! Wow, you really like it. Year after year! Perhaps there just isn’t that much out there about this decidedly off-the-beaten track, abandoned Soviet mining town at 78° 39′ 22″ N, practically just a stone’s throw from the North Pole.
It’s a bit surreal, walking along the avenues of this Soviet ghost town with Vladimir Ilyitch Uljanov looking down at me from his pedestal. This is the world’s northernmost statue of Lenin… Rusted playground swings and slides are also taken over by incessantly cackling gulls. What nature gives, nature takes back. Nowhere have I seen this better illustrated than here… Painted on the wall of the abandoned school, is a scene from a fairy tale. It’s as if I can hear children playing and laughing. Then it fades, like a dream. Fertile ground for the imagination up here.
7. Place Massena: Conversation in Nice
I’m childishly excited that you like this little piece, about the heart of old Nice and about Jaume Plensa’s statues along the tram lines, representing the seven continents: opaque men on tall pedestals. At night, illuminated in ever-changing colours.
And that’s how they converse, the continents, in a dialogue of colours – with each other, and with us. Where I’d normally hasten along, I’m instead persuaded to stop for a bit – and look up, waiting for the colour to change. What will he say next? What does purple mean? Green? Pink? Hypnotic, almost.
8. Sardinia with kids: Appealing Alghero
This ancient little post (from 2009!) made the list this year. We don’t write much about travelling with kids here on Sophie’s World these days. The little ones are not so little anymore, you see.
Sardinia with kids is easy, and Alghero with its old town and city walls is fun and exciting. At the edge of the old town is a park with a good playground, essential for a child-friendly holiday.
9. Kuwait Gulf War Memorial
This piece about a disturbing museum you did like, the Kuwait House of National Memorial Museum.
Walking through a dark corridor, I hear the horrors of war. Models of houses, people, war planes, tanks – all illuminated and timed with smoke and sound effects. Planes whiz by, bombs are dropped, houses set on fire, machine guns rattle, people shout. It feels very realistic.
10. The Belfast murals – a photo walk through recent history
Also disquieting is Belfast’s sinister street art, but you liked it all the same.
Belfast’s political murals are disturbing. Walking along Shankill Road, just a few days before the now infamous 9/11, these images left me feeling edgy, gun-shy, paranoid even. But at the same time, I was weirdly drawn in. I had to forcefully withdraw my eyes.
First of all you are a wonderful photographer! The top photo travelling from Georgia to Armenia is one that would be nice to put on canvas. Same for the St Moritz photo. Nice.
Thank you 🙂