Discovering the Berca Mud Volcanoes

During 10 years of traveling together, you are bound to run into something unusual or even unique. For us, that’s the Berca Mud Volcanoes, located in southeast Romania.

But first of all, what are mud volcanoes? Wikipedia defines them as

small volcano-shaped structures typically a few metres high caused by the eruption of mud and natural gases.

And more in detail:

As the gases erupt from 3000 metres deep towards the surface, through the underground layers of clay and water, they push up underground salty water and mud, so that they overflow through the mouths of the volcanoes, while the gas emerges as bubbles. The mud dries off at the surface, creating a relatively solid conical structure resembling a real volcano. The mud expelled by them is cold, as it comes from inside the Earth’s continental crust layers, and not from the mantle.

In Romania, you can only find mud volcanoes not far from Berca. Elsewhere in Europe, you can visit them in Ukraine, Russia, Italy, and especially in Azerbaijan.

How to get there? You will need a car, preferably with a GPS. Program it for Berca or, even better, Scortoasa. The latter is a small municipality, however; if it doesn’t show up on your GPS, put it on Berca anyway. From there, you will see roadsigns saying “Vulcanii Noroioși”. When you follow these, you will automatically arrive at the right spot.

As you can see on the pictures, there is no vegetation around the mud volcanoes. That is because the soil is too salty.

You need to pay a very small entrance fee.

What you also need to know:

  • You cannot visit the mud volcanoes during rainy weather.
  • Wear appropriate shoes! No flipflops!
  • Even when wearing the right shoes, do not walk in the mud itself. You will ruin your shoes beyond repair. Just ask Lars…

Looking for accomodation? The nearest town is Buzau. It’s the easiest option. In some of the surrounding villages, however, you can find some really picturesque hotels as well.

This weekend, I will publish another part of the Lockdown Diary. Changes are finally coming! Next week, we will take you to other corners of Europe!


The Ultimate Guide to the Amphitheatre of Durrës

After 10 years of traveling around all over Europe, I can say that I have 3 favorite countries: Poland, Romania, and Albania. These three underwent dramatic historic changes, boast magnificent sceneries and breathtaking architecture. On top of that, Albania is the best representative of Mediterranean food, with fresh ingredients such as fish, seafood, vegetables, and fruit. Lars and I also had the impression that Albania on a gastronomical level was inspired by two of its neighbors, namely Italy and Greece. But more about Albanian food in another post.

We traveled to Albania two times, once in 2013 to Sarande and the second time in 2015 to Durrës. The latter is one of the biggest cities in Albania and also one of the oldest.

We spent a week in Durrës, but on the first days, we explored the beach and swam a lot. Once we had become accustomed to the summer heat, it was time for some sightseeing: a visit to the biggest attraction of the town, its amphitheater, built in the 2nd century.

Durrës Amphitheatre

Lars and I were in Albania by car, but unfortunately, our GPS had stopped working as soon as we had entered the country. It was even by sheer luck that we had found our hotel! Luckily for us, two hotel employees accompanied us on our drive to the amphitheater – they had an appointment in the center of the town. And thanks to my excellent visual memory, we found the way back again to our hotel. In a nutshell: if you are in Durrës with a car without a trustworthy GPS, better take a taxi!

The address is: Rruga Kalase, Durrës, Albania

Some interesting numbers:

  • Length: 132m.
  • Width: 113m.
  • Height: 20m.
  • Capacity: 15.000 – 20.000 spectators.
  • Founded: the 2nd century.
  • Excavation: 1966.

The Durrës amphitheater is the biggest of its kind in the Balkans.

I can’t remember how much we paid for the entrance fee, but I am very sure that it was a low amount. You cannot visit the amphitheater on your own though, a guide accompanies you. Two words of warning: wear good shoes or proper sandals and take water with you. There is a lot of climbing to do in very hot weather!

Our guide started the tour with a funny anecdote. A professor had a lemon tree in his garden that for unknown reasons didn’t bear any fruit. One day, out of curiosity, he started digging in his garden and that’s exactly how he discovered the ruins.

She showed us the remains of a Christian chapel, dating from the 2nd half of the 4th century.

Performances, also with gladiators, took place until the 4th century.

Excavations took place from late 1966 to the 1980s. Then the amphitheater started slowly decaying because conservation efforts were only taken at the beginning of the 21st century. Moreover, the building is on all sides surrounded by houses.

In the meantime, the Durrës Amphitheatre has made it to the tentative list of Albania for inscribing it as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And that seems to be a slow procedure as well. Such a shame that this magnificent building is rotting away…

If you want to know more about the past of Durrës, better visit the archeological museum.

Join us again next week, when we take you to other corners in Europe!

Estonian Food Adventures

Word of warning: do not read this post on an empty stomach!

Today, we take you to the north of Europe, to Estonia. Before we left Belgium, Lars and I knew little about this country, and especially about its gastronomy. Now, I am certainly not going to say that after having spent 5 days in this beautiful country that we have become experts, but today I will pass on to you the little knowledge that we do have about Estonian food. In a nutshell: it’s delicious!

The basic ingredients are rye bread, dairy products, pork, potatoes, beer, and vodka. Estonians stick mostly to seasonal food. In spring and summer, it’s all about fresh produce, such as berries, vegetables, and herbs; BBQing is very popular. In autumn and winter, they will eat pickled and preserved food and hearty dishes such as blood sausage, sauerkraut, and head cheese.

Maybe this doesn’t sound very gastronomic… Lars absolutely hates blood sausages and I am not a big fan of rye bread. It’s not that I don’t like it, but it troubles me that the taste of the bread tends to overpower that of its toppings. Anyway, in recent times, Estonian cuisine has been influenced by its Scandinavian, Russian, and German neighbors. And when Lars and I left Estonia, we agreed on one thing: we had tasted some of the best food in Europe!

Our food adventures started in the capital, Tallinn. Via, we had booked an apartment for three days in the suburbs of the Estonian capital. Upon arrival, a very friendly young man informed us however that the apartment was not available. He could offer us a luxurious apartment in the center of Tallinn and we didn’t have to pay extra for it. Of course, we said yes.

After having unpacked some of our stuff, Lars and I decided to explore the surroundings. It was a warm and sunny day and to our delight, we discovered that we were not far from the Old Town. But priorities, people, priorities; we were very hungry and chose the nearest restaurant, Kaks Kokka. Little did we know what gastronomic delights awaited us there…

“Kaks Kokka” means “two chefs” in Estonian; “kaks” is also the Finnish word for “two”. The restaurant shares the same kitchen with its more expensive and upscale neighbor, Ö. To be honest, the whole menu looked delicious and this is what we finally settled for.

Excellent and tender lamb (for me) and beef, hearty Estonian beer, magnificent apple wine (also Estonian) and desserts that were sweet and tangy at the same time. To. Die. For. Usually, when I eat lamb, I choose cutlets, but this lamb shoulder was simply divine. More information about the restaurant later.

The next day, we tried another restaurant in Tallinn. No need to give a lot of information about it, because Gulfstream doesn’t exist anymore.

Unfortunately, Lars can’t remember what fish he had, whereas I had fishburgers. The sauce with the fish consisted of mushrooms. Apple wine again after the meal. Tasty food, but not the same quality as Kaks Kokka.

The day afterwards, we were at the coast, in a place called Haabneeme.

This is the home of beach restaurant, OKO, specialized in slow fast food. Their sourdough pizzas are very popular, but Lars and I decided to share grilled fish together. Eating fresh food at a sunny beach, consisting of excellent ingredients, and perfect and very friendly service. What more do you want?

Kesk tee 27, Viimsi, 74001 Harju maakond, Estland. Open all year.

Yes, that’s the same apple wine… again. If I can ever taste it again, I will die a very happy person.

We spent our last evening in Tallinn at Kaks Kokka (where else?). It was even better than the first time…

100-minute poached egg. What a delight! And how did they do it? I have never tasted anything like this since.

Lars and I are not sure, but we think he had a variation on steak tartare. A masterpiece!

Mere puiestee 6E, 10111 Tallinn, Estland

I hope you learned something from today’s post or that you at least enjoyed it. Have you ever tasted Estonian food? If not, will you ever try it?

In my next post, I will bring you to Albania. I am not sure yet when I will publish it since I have quite a lot to do on Wednesday. Otherwise, it will be on Friday.

The Ultimate Guide to El Padul Laguna

Every time my travel buddy and I drive to the coast, we pass the small town of El Padul. From a distance, I could always see something that resembled a lake, yet it was unclear to me how to get there… I was disappointed since I love to photograph waterscapes so much. So, it was time to do some research.

El Padul lies about 13 kilometers to the south of the beautiful city of Granada. The name comes from the Latin word palus-paludis, which means wetland. In other words, the body of water that you can see from a distance is actually not a lake but a bog; it is actually one of the most important wetlands in the south of Spain.

El Padul Laguna is home to a lot of rare species of animals. But there is another reason why this bog is so important. Researchers have found lots of traces of different prehistoric periods. You can actually see a tusk of a mammoth in the Park of Sciences in Granada. Scientists have also discovered tools and vessels.

How to find this beautiful lagoon? When you come from Granada on the A-44, take the exit towards El Padul. You are now on the N323a. Keep on driving on this road, passing the center of El Padul. On your right, you will see a restaurant called Montesol. When you park your car, you will notice a path going down. You have now almost reached your destination.

Keep on following this path; some magnificent views are waiting for you!

It is also worth following the path called Ruta del Mamut.

How much time can you spend at the Laguna? That depends… If you are there to admire and photograph the beautiful landscapes, you can easily stay there for 2 hours. In case you want to observe the local fauna and flora, it will probably be a whole morning or afternoon.

Afterwards, you can have a drink and/or a meal at Montesol. Take into account that you can only pay cash.

Keep on following this website and join us for another journey soon somewhere in Europe!

10 Pictures That Will Make You Want to Visit Portugal

Before the summer of 2018, Lars had never been to Portugal, whereas I had visited the country at least 5 times when I was still a teenager. And since it has always been one of my favorite destinations and we were now living in Spain, it was about time to introduce my travel buddy to this beautiful country.

Cacela Velha

One of the first towns you can visit when you cross the Spanish – Portuguese border. It has a magnificent beach.


A charming fishing-town in the Algarve. Looking for lunch. But first a walk to the beautiful local church.

Grilled Swordfish

Food is one of the reasons why I love Portugal so much. I will soon write an in-depth article about local food.

The Cathedral of Silves

One of the prettiest villages in the Algarve has a beautiful cathedral. And a medieval festival in summer.

Cabo de São Vicente

If you like dramatic landscapes, this is the place to be: the most southwestern corner of Europe.

Surfing Beaches

Lots of surfing spots, for all levels. This is Carrapateira.


The Foia is the highest mountain in the Algarve. When it’s not cloudy or misty, you have a beautiful view of a huge part of the Algarve.


And why not visit a spa-town? The hot springs (Caldas de Monchique) are located 6 km from this charming town.


Go inland, in the region of the Estremadura and discover quaint towns like Estremoz.


Oh yes, Portugal has got some excellent wines! This is the wine-house, Herdade das Servas, not far from Estremoz.

Soon I will discuss some of these locations in detail, so keep an eye on this website! On Thursday, I will return with an article about one of Europe’s most famous rivers.

Here are the locations of today:

Taking Care of Bears in the Black Forest

In the summer of 2017, Lars and I came up with the idea of spending a short holiday in Luxembourg (the country, not the Belgian province). At that time, we had driven through this tiny country and apart from visiting the wine region, we had never really explored the rest of it. Unfortunately, after one day, we had to change our plans completely, mainly because it was raining the whole time and the weather forecast looked even gloomier. After a short deliberation, we drove south and ended up in Freiburg (Germany).

Not only was the weather a lot better there, I quickly discovered, after some nosing around on the Internet and careful consultation of some maps, that this location would allow us to fulfil a dream we had been cherishing for quite some years: a visit to the Alternative Wolf and Bear Park Black Forest. It would mean having to drive about 90 kilometres to the north, but then we could make a nice day trip out of it. Which is exactly what we did.

The Alternative Wolf and Bear Park Black Forest is not a nature or animal park and certainly not a zoo. It is a sanctuary that takes care of bears that have had a miserable life in circuses, zoos, nature parks or with private owners. It also houses a group of wolves and a couple of lynxes.

Around the sanctuary is a hiking path which you have to follow, allowing you to have a good look at its inhabitants. The first animals that Lars and I saw were some very playful bear cubs.

You could ask yourself why these bears are simply not released in the wild. The answer is that this is impossible. The first reason is that most of these animals have become used to the presence of humans; moreover, because of their past, these bears haven’t developed the necessary skills to cope with the challenges of a natural environment. In other words, releasing them in the wild can have devastating consequences.

Keep on following the path and you will soon see the adult bears, which are really magnificent creatures! At the entry, you can pick up a brochure with detailed information about each of them and pictures, allowing you to recognize them. Take your time and you will also be able to make some beautiful close-ups.

Although the sanctuary takes really good care of its animals, some of them don’t survive a long time. One of the bears that Lars and I could observe sadly passed away a couple of months later.

I was extremely lucky when photographing some of the wolves, simply because they were very close to the fence when I passed there!

With the lynxes, on the other hand, I was far less lucky. We could hardly observe them, let alone photograph them. Lars and I waited for a long time and eventually gave up…

Anyway, after your visit, it is possible to have a drink and a snack at reasonable prices.

The Alternative Wolf and Bear Park Black Forest is not the only one of its kind in Germany. There is another one in the Harz region, which was, by the way, established earlier. Luckily for you, I have visited that sanctuary as well and will feature it later on this website.

Interested? Have a look here then. This is the exact address:

Alternativer Wolf- und Bärenpark Schwarzwald
Rippoldsauer Strasse 36/1
77776 Bad Rippoldsau-Schapbach

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