It’s that time of year, when big newspapers publish long lists of hot travel destinations for 2012, often without rhyme or reason (and the distinct suspicion that lobbying and pr push have more to do with the compilation than attractions, charm, or interest).
Having said that, we’re as partial to lists here at TMO as the next monkey, so after a quick consultation with TMO writers, here’s a list of cities we hope to visit during 2012.
Straight away we could jump into discussions over what Europe is; Bosnia Hercegovina is not part of the EU, though it is potentially a candidate for membership (see here), but it’s really the cultural identity which poses thorny questions; with the influence of Islam, and the Serbian Orthodox Church Bosnia Hercegovina is viewed by some as being too Eastern to be European. They can say what they like – for TMO Sarajevo is as emblematic, important, and interesting a European city as you can find, and now 17 years after the end of the war you can relatively easily (and safely) reach the city that has been historically dubbed ‘the Jerusalem of Europe’.
It’s not the easiest of our destinations to reach – as direct flights into Sarajevo from other European capitals are few and far between, limited mainly to central Europe and their Balkan neighbours – but rather than letting that be off-putting, it can be an encouragement to take in other destinations on the way. For example, if you could fly in to Zagreb in neighbouring Croatia, and then drive on to Sarajevo (roughly 4 hours); you could get to Dubrovnik on the Croatian Adriatic coast and then make your way inland to Sarajevo (roughly 4-5 hours) , and so on.
The Old Town (Stari Grad) with its cobbled streets, mosques, churches and synagogue. At its heart is the Baščaršija or old bazzar
The Latin Bridge, where Gavilo Princip sparked off World War I by assasinating the Austrian Archduke Ferdinand
The Sarajevo Tunnel Museum – located about 30 minutes outside the city centre, this is a grim reminder of not so long ago when the city was under siege and goods (and people) were smuggled in and out of the city in this tunnel.
Talk to many Italians about their favourite holiday destination, and scattered in amongst the predictable Maldives, the Seychelles, or Sharm el Sheik, you’ll often get Salento or the Salentine peninsula – the heel of Italy; it’s popular for its combination of beautiful beaches, crystal clear water, and historic cities, and Lecce has claim to being the most important and most beautiful (other notable cities in Puglia, this southern region, include Bari, Otranto, Galipoli and Taranto).
Lecce is one of the jewels of southern Italy, or the mezzogiorno as Italians generally call it. Founded in the 2nd Century B.C (though the area was inhabited, according to legend and folklore as far back as the times of the Trojan War) as a Roman garrison by Emporor Hadrian, the city has been ruled over by the Romans, Byzantines, and the Hapsburgs; in the mid 1500’s, and in particular after the Battle of Lepanto, which halted Ottoman advances, the magnificent Barocco Leccese architetural style flourished making the city such a special place to visit. Buildings like the Basillica di Santa Croce, the Palazzo del Governo, il Duomo and its surrounding square are all ornately embellished and a wonder to behold. The city is, reasonably enough, nicknamed the Florence of the South.
In recent times the Puglia region has been undergoing a new cultural revolution, giving birth to some of Italy’s best bands (Negramaro, Caparezza, and Sud Sound System to name but a few), as well as reviving the wonderful tradition of the Tarantella – a frenetic folk dance (thought to be provoked by the bite of a tarantula!).
The city centre is relatively small, and strolling around is the best way to take in the Baroque Architecture. Start in Piazza Duomo.
For the best example of the Baroque
The Notte della Taranta (a festival throughout Puglia, with concerts arranged during the summer featuring the Tarantella folk music/dance mixed with international artists)
ItaliaWave – a huge (and largely free) indie-rock festival, which has been held in different cities over the last couple of years. Last year it was held in Lecce, and looks set to be held there again for 2012