Trip and Trail is a place for all of us who love to travel, to trek, to backpack and in general for anyone who can’t stay motionless for long. You can call it a blog or a webzine, it doesn’t matter. What matters is the journey and the joy of sharing it with friends.
Samsung S10 hit the market earlier this month and everybody now is expecting to see how these impressive specs perform in real life. No doubt, Samsung’s flagship is a great phone but how does it perform as a camera? Can you solely rely on it for capturing your travels and photographic adventures? The company claims that this phone is “the next generation camera that lets you shoot like a pro without being a pro”. Now that’s a bold statement and so we’re going to put it to the test.
Samsung S10, S10+ and the soon to arrive S10 5G have the same rear cameras, which are what we are mostly interested here. Lots of lenses to start with. Three plus the front one, which can now shoot 4K video. On the rear you will find side by side: a 12MP Telephoto (6mm, FOV 45°), a wide 12MP (4.32mm, FOV 77°) with mechanical shutter (f1.5 & f2.4) and an ultra-wide 16MP (1.8mm, FOV 123°). In 35mm equivalent they are 13, 26 and 52mm respectively. How do these three focal lengths work in the real world? The answer is pretty well. The main lens here is the 26mm which is the only one that has a two position mechanical shutter and also the only that can shoot RAW files (why?).
Next is the 52mm. It will shine in portraits and landscapes when the extra reach is needed. The optical stabilization keeps hand shaking under control and the quality is very good for a tiny telephoto. My only complaint here is the lack of RAW files.
Last but not least the 13mm. I can say that it is very useful for landscapes and tight spaces where the 26mm just wouldn’t be wide enough. Quality wise, it’s almost on par with the other two. Not bad considering the extreme focal length’s needs in glass quantity and quality. The lack of optical stabilization here is not that important, again because of the extreme field of view. Naturally there is distortion, which is nothing unusual considering the focal length and a correction can be applied automatically with a small crop penalty. When shooting contra (against the sun)—a weak point for many extra wide lenses—it performs very well by keeping lens flare to minimum.
Camera Performance of The Samsung S10
Three small icons over the S10s shutter button make the switch between the three cameras a breeze. The transition is instant. The star of the show here is the wide double aperture lens which will be used most of the time. I’m glad that Samsung hasn’t bitten on the megapixel race and kept this little gem to 12 megapixel. You may scratch your head but more megapixels mean smaller megapixels. And smaller megapixels mean less light absorption and more noise, especially for a sensor the size of a lentil. Besides, 12 megapixels are more than enough for most computer screens and definitely an overkill for phone and tablet screens.
Samsung’s RAW files are sharp
The dynamic range of Samsung S10 is absolutely stunning and the ability of the sensor to retrieve detail from overexposed scenes (like a sunny sky) is remarkable for a phone. Not that it does a bad with the details in the shadows. Of course to take advantage of the camera’s full capabilities you have to shoot RAWs (see the difference). The sharpness is also very good. Exceptional in the center and pretty good on the edges. Lens flare and chromatic aberration are virtually non-existent. When it comes to depth of field (the distance between the points where focus starts and ends), the small aperture change won’t make any significant difference for subjects located beyond half a meter away. But it will give you a stop and a third of extra light when you switch it to f1.5 albeit with a small decline in quality, which is much less than the one a higher ISO would induce anyway.
Talking about ISO, I wouldn’t mind to crank it up to 640 for most occasions and even up to 1000 for certain applications. This means that combined with the f1.5 aperture Samsung S10 is rather serious about low light photography. The RAW here will need extra work for de-noising the image but the JPEG will be much more clear with the help of some digital magic by Samsung’s algorithms. Note that the ultra-wide will suffer from heavier noise after ISO 400 though.
Traditionally, I have been using my phone more for video and less for photography and I can say that the S10 excels in the video department too. The 4K 60fps video is crisp and though data rate is kept to 43mbps, image quality is very good and the size of the files—thanks to Samsung’s compression—pleasantly low. S10 also shoots in 1080P 240fps and 720P 960fps for use in slow motion. Naturally the both lack the crispness of 4K/60—especially the 960fps but they are more than good, considering that this is phone and not a full size video camera. As a bonus, there is a 1080p/30fps super steady mode which gives amazing results by stabilizing the footage (almost as good as a gimbal) optically and digitally at the same time. Definitely useful when you want to keep things steady while you move and you don’t have the luxury of a gimbal.
S10 can handle extreme contrast pretty well considering the size of the sensors.
So, does Samsung S10 lets you shoot like a pro without being a pro? Not, exactly. No phone or application will ever do that but asking something more realistic like “is the Samsung S10 able to capture pro grade photos when you actually know what you are doing?” And the answer is maybe, depending on the application. It can surely provide most travelers/bloggers/enthusiasts with all the quality images that they need. I was even thinking that this is the first phone that I would attempt to print an image from. Will I take out my Ricoh GR out of my bag? Not yet (I still need a small grip and a couple of dials), but Samsung S10 is the first phone that has put me into thoughts and that’s remarkable for something you can grab out of your pocket at any time.
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Surely your phone is capable of taking pretty good photos, but are you always happy with them, or do they leave you wanting something more? The fact that manufacturers have made great leaps during last years in the photography department, means that there is so much more potential to be extracted from phone photography now, than ever before. In order to use the maximum capabilities of a state of the art phone camera though, you have to do a little more than just point and shoot. Here are some tips on how to get the most out of your phone.
The light can make or break an image. Photography is not the art of pushing a shutter button, it’s the art of using light to your advantage. When you’re shooting portraits, make your subjects turn until they’re facing the light in the most flattering angle. Then move around your subject in order to find the best possible composition in relation to that person. When you travel, arrange to visit the most photogenic places early in the morning or late in the afternoon. The light will be much softer and your phone will cope better with the low contrast compared to the mid-day sunlight which is just too harsh. Also, when the sun is lower, it gives images a nice texture because the shadows are richer. Sometimes clouds can also be your friend by diffusing the light and making it softer.
Samsung S7 Edge 1/50s ISO 100
Keep it simple
Photography is a two-dimensional medium. Things on photos don’t look exactly like your stereoscopic vision sees them in real life. We’ve all been to a place that made our jaw drop but when we saw our pictures, they just didn’t do much justice. It can be frustrating, so here’s what to do. It’s always better to concentrate on leaving the “clutter” out than try to squeeze the whole scene in. If it’s a building that you are trying to shoot, move around and try to keep your object in the frame while leaving as many distractions as possible, out. Negative space (cloudless sky, empty wall) can work great around your subject.
Minimal, works wonders in photography. Try to find balance and geometry in your composition. Things don’t always work out when you’re trying to put everything in the middle. Try the rule of thirds (place your subject(s) closer to one edge or the other but leave them some space to “breath” at the same time). Leading lines also work great when you can place them in your frame. These are lines formed by any element (a road, a fence, rail tracks) that draw your eye somewhere in the picture.
Here the negative space (snow) highlights perfectly the triangle of skiers 1/2500, ISO 50 (S7 Edge)
Learn the basics of photography
Yes, it seems complicated and yes, you might wonder why would you go to the trouble, since your phone takes care of everything automatically? But, believe me, it won’t take you more than an hour and will really boost your understanding of how a camera works, upping your photography game immensely at the same time.
Shutter speed, aperture (constantly maximum on phones except Samsung’s new S10 but more about this in the future) and sensitivity (ISO). These three terms are the alpha and the omega of photography. They may sound complex but they really aren’t.
Your camera sensor needs to absorb enough light in order to expose an image properly. Too little and the image will be dark, too much and the brighter parts (usually the sky) will lose their color and detail, looking entirely white and washed out.
Since aperture (the size of the opening at the back of the lens, through which the light passes) has a fixed diameter on phones, the amount of light can only be controlled by setting the shutter speed and sensitivity of the camera sensor.
Shutter Speed & Sensor Sensitivity
Shutter is a small device in front of the sensor (think window shutters) which by opening and closing for a certain amount of time measured in fractions of a second, allows for a certain amount of light (reflected by the elements in your frame like sky, people, landscape etc.) to reach the surface of the sensor. Phones don’t have a mechanical shutter but an electric one, which is actually just the procedure of switching on and off the sensor for a specific amount of time and doing essentially the same job.
When the reflection hits the sensor, it gets scanned and converted into a digital signal which will eventually be stored to a file (jpeg or raw). If the light is adequate, then the sensor can properly expose the image by working on idle (lowest ISO setting available, usually 50 or 100) and absorb enough light in the limited time that the shutter is open. If the light is not enough (night, sunset, sunrise) then it will have to work on higher power which will make it more sensitive to light (higher sensitivity is usually ISO 200-800 for phones) but with the side effect of adding “noise” (grain/blur) to the signal and eventually the image.
Samsung S7 1/750s, ISO 50
So, you don’t want the sensitivity to rise too much. What can you do? You can make the shutter stay open for longer right? Well, unfortunately this can have side effects too. Raise the shutter speed above 1/30 of a second (meaning 1/25, 1/10 etc. since it’s a fraction) and the sensor will also register your hand shake or/and the movement of your subject (as blurring) because your composition will move between the time when the sensor switches on till the time it goes off. As you probably have figured out by now, there is a sweet spot between sensitivity and shutter speed depending on what you’re shooting.
When capturing landscapes, you may be able to get away with shutter speeds as low as 1/30s and keep your ISO to minimum but try to shoot your kids running around with anything slower than 1/250 and you will be disappointed. Which means that you will have to raise your ISO, sacrificing a bit of image quality but still getting something way better than a messy blur. The thing is that your phone doesn’t always “understand” the situation you are shooting and that’s when you have to take matters into your own hands by shooting manually or semi-manually (set the shutter but leave the phone take care of the sensitivity and vice versa).
So, next time that you want to capture your subject as a dark silhouette against a bright background (classic pics against sunset), go to manual mode and raise your shutter speed to expose properly the background and leave your subject underexposed. It is a bit more complicated than fully auto but believe me, it’s much more rewarding. It’s also one of the things that sets apart shooters from photographers.
Here the shutter was right for the room but not fast enough to capture Veronika’s movement. 1/40s, ISO 160 (S7 Edge)
Get a Mini Tripod
Buy a phone tripod and a remote (so you don’t move your phone while hitting the shutter button), it’s the number one accessory to improve your image quality and it costs peanuts. I always keep one with me, they cost as low as $20 on Amazon and they are small enough to fit in a bag or a satchel. They are priceless in low light situations when holding your phone entirely steady is crucial. They will even make shooting in the night and long exposure photography possible opening an entirely new world. Even though it is shot with a little camera, my essay “A Night in Cork” would be impossible without the mini tripod which I always carry in my bag.
Shoot RAW files instead of JPEG and post process.
If your phone can shoot RAW files (uncompressed images) and you really want to take the next step, then download an application like LightRoom CC (free) and learn how to use it in order to take your photos to the next level. If you’re using generic filters like the ones on Instagram, know that they will never get close to custom post processing plus that they are useless unless you have already color corrected your photo (process of correcting the colors so that they are realistically accurate). It’s not that hard and it can yield great results in a couple of minutes, as long as you’re willing to put some work to it.
Click the image above to witness the obvious superiority of Samsung S10 RAW file against JPEG (it’s the same photo saved as RAW and JPEG). Look especially for the loss of detail in the shadows and the “burned” sky of the JPEG
Edit your own work effectively
There are two ways that will make you a better photographer, guaranteed. The first is to cultivate your taste by looking at good photographers’ work and by that, I mean photo books and not the internet. Photography is at its best printed and illuminated from an outside source. Your computer screen won’t do it much justice. Small mobile screens are even worst plus we never relax and take our time while on a phone but we surely do when we are on our favorite armchair shuffling through a nice book. Some are costly, some are not and there is always the choice of the public library.
The secret here is not only to find pictures that you like, but more importantly to understand what you like about them and what makes them great. Light, composition and technical excellence (perfect focus, suitable focal depth and correct colors) are crucial but I’m also looking for another thing which I consider the true mark of a good photograph—longevity. You may be impressed by a photo but if the effect wears off after an hour, then it’s probably not as good as you thought. On the other hand if it’s not as impressive but it keeps growing on you, then you know that there is something there. If you have trouble judging your own work, there are groups offering critique, like this one on Flickr. If you judge your shots objectively and ask yourself what you could had done better, then you will improve no matter what. Just keep taking photos.
This book is worth its weight in gold. Though not exactly related to travel, it’s full of iconic images and above all it shows you the whole roll with the frames shot before and after, where you can see the corrections, choices and procedures of Magnum’s famous photographers.
Well traveled and a master of color and framing—Adam Webb will take you through some dark alleys with pitch dark shadows looming above people as well as bright squares with children joyfully playing. For me, it’s one of the best books about street photography.
The undisputable lord of the landscapes. Devoted to his art from the moment of visualization to execution, film development and printing, he was a true pioneer and a visionary. This collection contain most of his finest pieces.
Regulate your creative flow.
This goes for many arts besides photography. Shoot a lot, practice a lot but don’t overdo it. Shooting a 1000 pictures per day is not good unless you have the time to carefully go through each one and see what you did wrong and what you did right. Besides, you need to give your eye a rest and digest your recent experiences. Take a break and work on your post processing a bit instead.
Gin and Tonic at Museo Chicote/Madrid. Notice how getting extremely close to the subject makes the background produces a pleasing blur to the background. 1/40s ISO 800 (S7 Edge)
Eventually what separates photographers from casual shooters is intention. You are really making photos instead of shooting them, when you do things on purpose rather than sheer luck. You will see a desirable pattern easier if you are actively looking for it. Next time before taking a photo, before even looking at your screen, make a small pause. Look the light around you, look at your surroundings and consider how to make everything work in your favor. Photography is an art and a craft at the same time. You can stick to selfies or you can take it few steps further and tell the stories of other people and foreign places. But if you want to hone your photography and make your images “talk”, you have to master the tools.
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Every year between January and March, at the south foot of Low Tatras in Slovakia, a thrilling championship takes place. It’s the annual races of Krnohy—the traditional Slovak wooden sledges.
These heavy sledges are stirred by two unstrapped daredevils who race down a steep snow road—usually through the woods, while stirring it with their feet and by moving their weight left and right. To make it even more spectacular, some of the crews are dressed in traditional Slovakian folk clothing. I was fortunate to watch the first race of the year that took place just outside of the village Valaska, on Potocky hill (info and calendar here).
Valaska Sledge Race - YouTube
People started to gather from the morning alongside the downhill route and the finishing line where several kiosks with traditional food and plenty of alcohol were set. Today, there were more than 50 crews waiting to start their run from the top of the slope. The route would take them through some pretty fast turns on a narrow forest road that comes down Potocky and their maximum speed would be close to a hundred kilometers an hour at some points.
By the time I left Valaska, I was already a bit late and by the time I got to the finishing line, the race was already on, and the first sledges were charging down the small snow-covered road. These handcrafted sleds are made of solid wood from rugged trees that grow on the rocky terrain around these majestic mountains. The simple wooden frame sits on two thick skids. Two transverse planks serve as seats and four handles on the sides, are used for the crew to hold on for dear life as this contraption storms down the narrow route sometimes centimeters away from tree trunks and hard snow banks. The front tips of the skids are bent upwards and are pointy like a horn, giving krohnys a rather sinister look.
I found a good spot on the side of the road and started taking shots as the contestants flew by, gathering speed on the final straight before the finishing line. It wasn’t long after, when a sled failed to negotiate the last turn and hit the snowbank with a big thud, flipping on the side and sending the crew on the snow. Fortunately no one was hurt and they were back on their krnohy in no time. It was chilling cold and the sleds were coming down every couple of minutes. Temperature hadn’t been above 0 degrees Celsius for more than a week. Ιn the meantime the spectators who were gathered by the finish line, were warming up with slivovica (drink from plum distillation), hot tea and delicious goulash. They were singing along with the small folk band that played traditional music and seemed to be having an absolute blast!
The big party was joined by the krohny crews and everybody was singing and drinking merrily around small fires having a great time. Their mood was really contagious. Of course I joined in. Some people next to me offered me Slivka from their bottle and I gladly had a sip of the 50% alcohol dynamite. It was so cold that I could feel the liquid going down my throat and stomach. One of the things I love about Slovaks is that they know how to have a good time and that even when they have a few drinks more, they always remain jolly and peaceful. The party went on for quite some time before the crowd started to break up. After it was over, a few brave souls walked down the village’s pub to keep the party on till sunset.
All in all it was a great day. It’s this kind of experience that really introduces foreigners like me to the local culture and traditions. Krnohy races are a great local event and shouldn’t be missed by winter travelers. I left the race with a smile on my face and it wasn’t only the slivka.
In my humble opinion this is the most beautiful trail in Cyprus. It starts just outside the village of Kyperounta in eastern Troodos Mountains and follows a well signed 13km trail with approximately 650m elevation gain through some of the most beautiful sceneries the island has to offer. Its average difficulty shouldn’t pose any problem for relative fit people or anyone who hikes on a semi-regular basis.
Hiking to Madari
The starting point is the location “Doxa si o theos” (it means praise god) just outside Kyperounta village. From there, the constantly ascending trail will lead you on the ridge of Mount Madari and all the way to the base of peak Adelfi which you will recognize easily from the fire department’s lookout that stands on top of it (Madari post). This 4 kilometer section has some amazing views left and right with Kyperounta and Chandria villages to the south and several rows of mountains to the north which belong to the greater mountain line of Troodos.
Madari Trail - YouTube
Before reaching the lookout, there is a great viewpoint to the north which shouldn’t be missed. From there, you have a clear view of Aderfi peak and the lookout itself—which is open for the public by the way. As an extra, you can hike the small circular trail that goes around the peak known as Teisia tis Madaris. Teisia is the name of the high tower-like geological formations which are scattered around the mountain. This will take an extra hour and a half to complete but if you don’t feel like doing it on the same day, you can come back another time since the lookout is accessible by car. Leaving Adelfi peak, the trail goes downward for over six kilometers through one of the most beautiful forests of in Cyprus. This section will take you to the location Selladi tou Karamanli via one of the most isolated routes on Troodos. Dense pines and centuries old junipers cover the trail providing a broad shade which is very welcome when you hike under the blazing Mediterranean sun.
At Selladi tou Karamanli, you have to cross the tarmac road and take the trail which continues downhill towards Mouti tis horas which is also on a tarmac road. You will know that you are near the waypoint when the trail will start ascending again, around one kilometer before Moutti tis Horas. The remaining distance to Doxa si o theos (starting point) is a continuous ascent a bit over 1.5km long, which makes it probably the most difficult section of Madari circular trail since you will have the accumulated tiredness of the biggest part of the hike on your back. The whole thing will take average hikers something between four and five hours to complete depending on how many stops will be made. I can attest that it is one of the most beautiful trails in Cyprus offering spectacular views and some vigorous exercise to those who will attempt it. It’s a great choice unless you have small children with you. In that case, I would propose to choose Atalanti trail which is equal in length but with way less altitude gain making it perfect for a relaxed long half day trek.
How To Get There
Madari Circular Trail is on Troodos Mountains near Kyperounta which in turn is closest to the city of Limassol. The starting point (Doxa si o theos) is north of Kyperounta village on the way to Spilia. If you are coming from Limassol, when you get into Kyperounta (E909 road) pass the hospital on your left. After 1km, you’ll see the road to Spilia on your left (F944). Turn and keep going for another 1.8km until you reach a small crossroad. You will see the stone stairs of Doxa si o theos on your right.
Climate & Equipment
The trail is open all year round, so unless there is snow in January or February (usually doesn’t last more than a couple of weeks per year) there is nothing to worry except for the heat. The sun in Cyprus, especially between June and September is no joke and neither is sun stroke or dehydration. Wear a hat, put on sun block and drink water as often as possible.
Is it better to invest in a flagship phone or get a camera?
It’s quite a dilemma and the fact that both devices have improved greatly in the past few years, doesn’t make the choice easier. Let me say in advance that if you never watch your images outside your phone or tablet then the answer in no, you don’t need anything more than a smartphone. For the rest of you, keep reading.
During the last three years, phone industry has made great leaps in photography. It abandoned the senseless megapixel race which did more bad than good on the tiny sensors and settled to around 12Mp which seems to be the sweet spot, at least for now (the war of megapixels seems to flame again lately).
Camera companies on the other hand, after taking a huge plunge on sales which started in 2010 seem to have gotten out of the stun and fight back by developing cameras with not only improved photo and video quality but also great connectivity and rich features while managing to reduce size by developing mirrorless models. The new microprocessors and software have improved the “out of the camera” quality of files, providing an alternative for people who are not willing to post process their shots or want to keep it to a minimum. Somebody could say that the newest cameras are trying to resemble smartphones more and more while smartphones are trying to resemble cameras.
Landscape photo from a Samsung S7 Edge. Not bad at all
Will Smartphones Replace Cameras At Some Point?
Will we get to a point where the quality of smartphones will be so close to cameras making their existence futile unless you are a pro? I think not. And the reason for this is glass. There will always be improvements in the sensors’ dynamic range (the ability to portray dark and bright areas of the same image without messing either) and resolution but they will always hit a roof imposed by optics—the lens.
This inseparable part of every camera is where complications begin to arise for smartphones. A lens is made from a series of glass elements whose job is to project a focused image on the sensor in order for it to scan it. Even if sensor companies could make these small sensors as capable as bigger ones, they would have to pair them with much better lenses. A low capability lens in front of a great sensor is like having a great music source and amplifier playing music through lousy speakers. It doesn’t make any sense, and better lenses are bigger lenses, there’s no way around this physical constraint, at least not for now.
If you take a vintage 50mm lens from the 70s and compare it to one made today, you will see that more or less they have the same size or the vintage is smaller because there is no autofocus. Even after almost fifty years, lens manufacturers have managed to marginally improve quality (considering the time past), remove imperfections and above all lower the cost but their product remains practically the same. I own a 50mm 1.7 Asahi (1977) which can destroy many modern lenses and even compare to the best ones. Lens making is an art that bears similarities to that of mechanical watches manufacturing. Progress is being made but it’s painfully slow and there are no breakthroughs unlike the digital technology which evolves on a daily basis.
Since smartphones cannot accommodate bigger lenses (which would also allow bigger sensors to be installed), phone manufacturers have to put their weight on software and more specifically digital manipulation algorithms which are workaround solutions to the physical constraints.
So Why Should You Stick With Your Phone?
Everyone is always carrying a phone into their pocket and that means that they can take it out anytime and fire away. Even if cameras ever managed to become as small as a phone, they would always be an extra thing to carry around since you would never leave your phone behind anyway. This single fact is the core of why phones will always compete with cameras even though the latter are usually of higher quality. Phones are not an accessory or a tool anymore—in our minds they are a necessity.
Ease of Use
This is where smartphones excel. The constant development of new software which improves the phones’ capabilities and works around restrictions to deliver a better image with minimum effort from the user’s side. After automatic panorama stitching now developers have managed to work with multiple exposures (identical images with different light levels) and actually produce natural images and not fake looking HDR. The outcome is dynamic contrast that rivals the one of big cameras albeit with restrictions. It cannot work with moving objects, but still it’s very useful for landscapes.
Another feature recently developed is the artificial blurring around a subject which imitates the narrow depth of focus that bigger sensors produce especially with longer lenses (medium and telephoto focal lengths). This is very good with portraits since it isolates the subject by blurring the background making this way the subject to stand out. Most of the times it works but sometimes doesn’t, since the algorithm cannot always recognize the distance of the objects in relevance to the person. This can produce mistakes like not blurring sections that should be blurred or by making half of the object blurry while leaving the rest untouched. I’m sure that future updates will improve its performance and even though it will never give the natural effect of a real lens still it can work pretty well.
This is probably self-explanatory. Most of the images that people take, are uploaded either for use at social media or to be sent to other people, again through the internet. Even though I use cameras 95% of the time, I still find myself sending pictures to my phone (in case of Instagram there is no other way) all the time. Even camera companies have recognized this and are developing apps so that their cameras are able to send files to phones with ease.
Even for people who shoot RAW files, programs like Lightroom are free and very useful for a quick process and Jpeg compression before uploading on the net. People demand speed more than any time before. When you shoot with your phone all this process takes seconds but with a camera it might as well take minutes.
Photo from a Ricoh GR (ISO 4500 & Shutter Speed 1/250)
A classic camera that costs 40% less from today’s flagship phones
This is the kind of photo that can expose the weaknesses of a phone camera
Why Should You Get a Proper Camera?
Low light and fast object capabilities.
One of the biggest problems for small sensors is the lack of dynamic contrast and the presence of noise in higher ISOs (ISO is a number describing the amplification of the sensor’s signal which happens in order to compensate for low light conditions). Even though smartphone lenses can concentrate lots of light (as much as a good camera lens) still it’s not enough for low light conditions or faster shutter speeds (the faster the shutter opens and closes, the less is the light that goes through) when in order for a photo to be properly exposed, the sensor has to work in higher ISO which has the aforementioned side effects. All modern cameras can work up to 800 ISO with not many problems and many can produce pretty clean images up to 3200 or even more for full frame cameras. Phones on the other side start to present significant problems already at 400. This gap between the devices, will never be bridged. Bigger sensors will always gather more light and consequently will have the upper hand here.
Choice of Focal length and Aperture
Camera users almost always have the luxury of zoom lenses or a choice between many different primes (single focal length lenses, which can be wide, telephoto and everything in-between) which they can mount on their cameras according to what they want to do. Smartphones on the other hand are always restricted to a wide lens (and lower quality extra wide for the front one) and some of the recent model have an additional camera with a telephoto whose performance is not on par with the main camera though.
The reason for this is that telephoto lenses are bigger than wide lenses which means that shrinking them produces an even bigger problem. Another issue with telephotos is that they need more stability for the shots not to be shaken, which again is more problematic with phones since their stabilization system (even for those with an optical one) is inferior to that of cameras and second because of their non-existent ergonomics. Cameras are made to be gripped phones are made to fit in pockets.
Another advantage of cameras is that they can change aperture. Aperture is a mechanical iris that regulates how much light goes into the camera (in phones it’s always wide open). There are two uses for this. One is to regulate the depth of field—how much of your image is in focus. You may want a blurred background when you shoot portraits but you don’t want it for landscapes or street photography. A second use it to reduce the light in order to drop shutter speed when shooting video. This induces a pleasing motion blur which makes videos more cinematic.
Real buttons, fat grips and textured surfaces guarantee that most cameras are a joy to hold. On the other side smartphones are shaped like remote controls, they are slippery and uncomfortable after ten minutes. Some people never think about it but bad ergonomics can spoil your appetite to take photos pretty fast.
So what should you choose?
Bottom line is that eventually it all comes down to what you want to achieve. I wanted a camera since I was a kid. When they bought me a 35mm point and shoot, I was so disappointed, that after a while I gave up on it. The worst part was that I had no control over the camera. I couldn’t select anything else except what kind of film I could use. I couldn’t set shutter speed, aperture or even focus where I wanted. I didn’t have a problem recognizing that my shots were bad. I had problem with the fact that I couldn’t do much about it.
Today’s phones are better than that camera in almost every aspect and with much more control too. To really take advantage of a camera, you have to invest time and effort in order to learn how it works. Shooting with a camera is the hard way and if you do it right, it will always take you further. If you have a genuine interest in photography, if you get out to shoot and not just shoot when you happen to be out, then a camera will surely help you to evolve as a photographer. If not, a smartphone will probably produce better results than the most expensive camera with the best lens on it.
I have always loved autumn for several reasons. It’s the time of the year that marks the end of a cycle and the beginning of a fresh one more intensely than any other season. Autumn comes just in time to save us from the intolerable heat of summer, and its frenetic energy which by the end has long been tiresome and monotonous. The first rains drop, washing down streets and the sultry atmosphere from the yellowness that has been building up for quite some time.
For a few days, every single thing seems to come to a halt before a sweet nostalgia creep in to kick-start the change in us too, for it doesn’t stop at anything.
During autumn, nature unleashes its powers more boldly than any other time of the year. In a spirited move, it turns the green leaves into yellow and then orange and purple before stripping off the foliage, initiating this way a period of rest and hibernation for flora and fauna.
What a time to introspect and definitely what a time to travel. For me, unless you have kids at school or any other reason to keep you home, fall is the best season to travel and not summer. Sure, I get that some people only want to lay on a beach bed for a week and do nothing but even so, this is something that you can still do in some countries well into autumn.
So, why is autumn the Best Season to Travel?
No one likes big crowds, big queues and overflowing sights. It comes in contrast to why you go somewhere in the first place which probably is to relax and enjoy. My days of getting in a plane just to party—which is something I could had done without leaving my city— have unequivocally passed a long time ago. Nowadays, quality is my priority. If quality is not there, then I refuse to spend my precious time and money.
Everything is cheaper; accommodation, air fares, car rentals. In some occasions more than 40% cheaper and that has a massive influence on your travel budget. During my trip to Ireland—last fall, I rented a Nissan Qashqai (small SUV) for eleven days which I picked up from Cork and dropped in Dublin for €225! If I had done that in July, I would have paid 70% more.
Once a year, somewhere in October (April for southern hemisphere), the deciduous trees shed their leaves to protect themselves from the coming frost and harsh conditions of winter. Before the shedding, they start decreasing the production of chlorophyll—the substance that gives leaves their green color. Once the green pigment goes away, then the other pigments of the leaves can finally be seen for a brief time, till they finally drop. Most of the times this color is deep yellow and orange but in some cases more vivid purples and magentas or even reds can be seen. This dramatic landscape and cityscape alteration is always spectacular to witness, but not all places are made equal. North America (US and Canada), Western Europe (Slovakia is one of my favorites), Russia as well as east China are some of the regions were fall can be seen at its brightest and most spectacular colors.
Fall in Romania
This goes mostly for urban traveling. Autumn is the season when new plays are presented in theaters and new exhibitions in museums and galleries. These activities are the salt and pepper of urban travel. They give every city new breath and can be a good reason alone to go somewhere. I always try to go to as many as possible.
Some people start feeling a bit depressed or anxious as summer moves on and fall is around the corner. I can’t think of a better way to combat this than by taking a trip. Just the preparation and the fact that you have something to look forward to, can work wonders on bad psychology. As an extra bonus, you come back with your batteries recharged which will probably make waiting for Christmas a bit less strenuous.
Three weeks ago, we had a great trip to Slovakia (more about this in the near future) and its euphoria is still strong in me. The weather was beautiful, and we had an amazing time even on rainy days. One of my biggest complaints about living in Cyprus is that we don’t have proper autumn and spring. The extremely “loooong” summer (more than 6 months) is interchanged briefly by a mild winter with very short intermediate periods. So, I can really appreciate a proper autumn and some rain.
I know that English will hate me for writing this…
Shooting a city’s streets always poses a big dilemma in photography. Black & white or color? In the case of Madrid, the answer was clear from the beginning. Even though the city has some amazing Art Deco buildings that would shine in monochrome, still it yells color. And above all, so do its inhabitants.
I spent twelve days in Madrid during which I walked its charming streets from dawn till the early hours; admiring the beautiful Spanish sun as it hit the pastel colored buildings and the wide squares of the Spanish capital. I loved the Spanish way of life and the easiness of its people who fill with warmth and life this magnificent city which would never be what it is, without them—Los Madrileños.
The heart and soul of Madrid lies in small cobbled alleys during empty afternoons, when the Spanish sun peeks around the city’s corners. I loved El Rastro—Madrid’s biggest flea market. But most of all, I loved the small streets around.
This character was always like a daemon behind the bar. Rough around the edges, he worked fast and his talk was straight and to the point. Some would perceive him as rude, I kept going every day…
An old lady checking the traffic of Plaza Mayor through one of the many centuries old shops that exist around the grand square.
Many cities in the world have great architecture and awe inspiring museums but none has Fat Spiderman. He makes random guest appearances in Plaza Mayor—his natural habitat, where he puts to shame every street artist in existence. Here, the legend seems to be a little concerned by the youth’s unsocial behavior.
Puerta del Sol is The meeting point for Madrilenos. This small square is overcrowded almost around the clock.
The gang of El Retiro. These tricyclists give tours around Madrid’s second biggest park for a living.
Plaza Mayor on a rainy day. One of the few occasions when the buzzing square actually gets empty of tourists.
Madrileños are easy and jolly most of the times. Their attitude contributes a lot to the city’s cozziness.
I kind of became an expert on getting lost in the city’s street and after a while, it became my favorite occupation. I loved the way that Madrid’s buzz went from loud to total silence every time I turned to a side road.
I found these two playing on Plaza de Xose Tarrio. They were so absorbed in their ball game that never seemed to notice me or any other passer-by.
She “caught” me raising the camera and got out of the way thinking I wanted to shoot the shop window. I smiled and took a shot. Then, she went back to her business.
The night market of Grand Via. The merchants, whose vast majority is of African decent always set a pretty effective network of spotters. The merchandise—mostly haute couture bag counterfeits, are always on a canvas whose four corners are tied to equal ropes. The seller can pick everything up and be gone literally in a split second.
I had always been curious about Madrid. After visiting Barcelona and loving it, I was eager to see how the rival city compared. And I was not let down. Madrid is as beautiful and seductive as Barcelona but in an entirely different, almost opposite way. They kind of complement each other and that didn’t come as a surprise.
Accommodation in the Spanish capital was a bit more expensive and hard to find than I had anticipated but eventually, I managed to find a nice little attic, downtown not far from Plaza Mayor.
My place was on cava Baja in the heart of the colorful neighborhood of La Latina. This old street is crowded with bulky old doors and numerous tapas bars—the trademark of Spain. It took me some time to find number sixteen on the facades of the century old buildings.
La Latina used to be inside the walls of the Alcazar of Madrid (citadel that stood where the royal palace is now) when the Moors reigned the Iberian Peninsula. That was back in the 9th century when Madrid was still a small settlement on river Manzanares called Magerit. The biggest part of the walls is ruined today but the narrow cobblestone streets and the beautiful squares like plaza Paja have been saved and remain one of the most charming characteristic of La Latina.
As usual, I dropped my staff and went back on the street for my familiarization walk. I headed north, towards the center, crossed Cale Segovia and walked on Cale Cuchilleros to see Plaza Mayor (the most central and iconic spot in Madrid) for the first time. One the way, I passed by Botin, the oldest continuously working restaurant in the world and one of Hemingway’s favorites.
The name of Hemingway comes up pretty often around the city. Truth is he loved Spain and that Madrid was one of his favorite towns. He also loved bullfighting, so much that he wrote a book about it (Death in the Afternoon) but above all he loved the way of life.
Going up the stairs in the dark archway of Cuchilleros I could see the strong sunlight emitting from the other side. When I stepped on the top, I paused for a second. Some places make a strong first impression, Plaza Mayor makes a Herculean one.
This huge rectangular square is surrounded by a massive building that makes you feel like you’re in a stronghold’s yard. The center is occupied by the equestrian statue of Philip III and four huge lamp posts around it. Their wide circular bases act as benches where Madrilenos sit to take a short rest or enjoy a bit of sun.
The facade of the hefty medieval building is painted in a mahogany color except for the middle section of the north side which is decorated with magnificent painted frescoes. That is the Casa de la Panaderia—which used to be the city’s main bakery. Today it houses the Madrid Tourist Board.
On all sides, under the square’s galleries, are several shops, cafes and restaurants with their tables usually flooded with tourists. It’s a beautiful place but it is often overcrowded. The only time you can have it for yourself is early in the morning, near sunrise.
I bought a bocadillo de calamares from the nearby La Campana (just outside the southwest gate on Calle Botoneras) which is famous for it and went back to the square to sit and enjoy it. Bocadillo de calamares is Madrid’s most famous street food. It is just fried calamari in a bun with a bit lemon. Simple and tasty.
I stayed for at least half an hour, watching the light fading on the plaza’s narrow balconies before resuming walk. After crossing Calle Mayor, I followed the narrow passage that leads to San Gines Chocolateria. This place makes a local sweet delicacy known as churro. Churros are long pieces of fried dough which you dip into hot chocolate. It’s an amazing snack especially for chocolate lovers. San Gines being the most famous churreria in town, frequently has long queues of people waiting outside to order it. Not far away from there, is another churreria called Los Artesanos 1902 which is as good and usually with less people. I had the taste of calamari still fresh in my mouth, so I let it for another time.
At the end of San Gines passage (they all take the name from the homonymous church around the corner), I stopped by the San Gines book shop. A small partly outdoor bookstore dating back in 19th century. It specializes in old technical and collectible books. Madrid is a paradise for readers with an abundance of small bookstores like this. Too bad my Spanish are poorer than poor.
I kept heading north, to Grand Via—the city’s most famous and inarguably most beautiful street. This avenue got many names after its completion in 1929. It took so long to be constructed that people called it Gran Via (great road), with a big dose of irony. Later, when it became the commercial theatre road with the magnificent buildings that we see today, the name Gran Via was deemed to be justified and it was officially named that way in the early 80s.
On the way to Gran Via
Callao square is the heart of this great avenue. The beautiful Art Deco building of Callao cinema as well as Carrion building across the street with the nostalgic Schweppes neon sign are two of the city’s most iconic buildings. Gran Via has many magnificent buildings. Some of them are among the most beautiful in Europe and they house everything from theatres, cinemas and boutiques to tapas bars and hotels.
Across the Gran Via metro station is the skyscraper of Telefonica—another amazing structure. It was one of the earliest skyscrapers in Europe and Madrid’s highest building till 1952. Designed by the American Lewis S. Weeks it has obvious similarities to the I.T.T communications building on Broad street New York—another Weeks design. In the case of Telefonica though, the dominant neoclassicism is interrupted by Spanish Baroque ornaments above the main entrance as well as on the clock tower atop the building.
Walking a few meters past it, I saw something that put a smile on my face—the Museo Chicote. At this point let me confess that Chicote is not a museum in the strict sense of the term. The art you can find in it, is mixology and the only collection that it has ever hosted was one made of bottles in the basement. In case you didn’t get it yet, it’s a bar. But not any bar. It is Madrid’s first cocktail bar and its history could actually fill a museum on its own.
I pushed the old revolving door and immediately saw that the place was practically unchanged since the day it was built. The Art Deco interior was inspired by Luis Gutierez Soto—the same man who designed Callao building a few blocks away. I sat on the bar and ordered a gin & tonic.
The space above the bar shelves was crowded with tens of black photo frames. Sinatra, Hemmingway, Loren, Hepburn, Gregory Peck, Salvador Dali were just a few of the people I recognized.
Definitely this place has seen better days but it’s still working. It survived Franco’s bombardments during the Spanish civil war which is no small feat considering that the nearby Telefonica building was a prime target and a reference point for the bomber pilots who used it to navigate their planes over Madrid.
It felt very nostalgic. I finished my gin and tonic and got out. Before calling a night I walked two blocks to the corner of Gran Via and Calle de Alcala and took some shots of Madrid’s icon—the spectacular Metropolis building and its beautiful angel.
Top Things to do in Madrid
One more colorful neighborhood in Madrid. Narrow cobbled streets with little shops one next to the other. Crowded mostly by locals, Malasana has been totally transformed into a hip neighborhood in recent time and is an excellent place for food and drinks.
The barrio (neighborhood) starts north of Gran Via, behind the theaters and goes all the way to Calle de Alberti Aguilera. It tends to have less tourists than La Latina and equally good nightlife. When the sun goes down along with the colorful shop grilles, small bars light up and keep the barrio live till the early hours.
Museums : The Golden Triangle of Art
The Golden Triangle of Art is the city’s three most prominent museums, located on Passeo del Prado. Reina Sofia and Thyssen-Bornemisza are on the one side of this beautiful boulevard while the Prado museum is on the other essentially forming a triangle which alone makes a visit to Madrid worthwhile.
This old hospital building with the addition of an impressive new wing, hosts a great part of Spain’s modern and contemporary art. This is a museum where you can see Picasso, Dali and Miro under the same roof. Naturally the centerpiece is Picasso’s Guernica. This masterpiece, depicts the ruthless bombing of civilians in the Basque town Guernica by dictator Franco and his Nazi allies. Monumental in size, it alone occupies a hall and gathers massive crowds
The museum itself is an architectural piece of art with the beautiful internal yard of the old hospital and the magnificent square on the south entrance which is covered with a spectacular awning so high that it belittles the long queues forming beneath it.
Salvador Dali – Girl at the window
One of the biggest and finest art museums in the world. From the dramatic portraits of El Greko to the haunting Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch, this temple of art will make you lose track of time and get lost in a world of old masters that goes back to when painting was the dominant medium.
Prado’s extensive collection includes works of Goya, Velasquez, Greko, Rembrant, Rubens, Raphael and several others. The fact that the museum exhibits large numbers of works for many of the artists means that you can actually see how they evolved as painters in the course of years and that is exceptional. I was impressed by the volume of art work that was commissioned by the church. Painting was a dominant medium in the past and church knew how to take advantage of that.
Seeing the whole collection will take you the greatest part of a day but is definitely worth it. Just keep in mind that no photos are allowed and buy a ticket online (https://www.museodelprado.es/en/visit-the-museum) to avoid the huge lines. I recommend buying the ticket package that includes the museum’s guide book. It’s well worth the money.
A great museum that houses the collection of the Thyssen-Bornemisza family—one of the biggest private collections in the word. It holds several important masterpieces from 12th icons to 20th century moderns.
It’s probably the ideal museum to go if you have time only for one of the golden triangle museums. It is a unique place where you can admire Caravaggio and Rubens under the same roof with Lichtenstein and Bacon.
As usual, it’s better to buy tickets in advance from the museum’s website.
The Royal Palace
One of the most impressive sights in Madrid, the Royal Palace was built in the place of the old wooden Alcazar of Madrid which was constructed by Emir Mohammed in the 9th century and burned to the ground in 1734. Its huge front yard (Plaza de la Armeria) is almost as big as the palace itself. An imposing building with classic lines made of white and grey stone.
It has more than 4000 rooms, an impressive collection of tapestries, frescoes, paintings and of course the mythical Royal Quartet—two violins, viola and a cello, all made by Antonius Stradivarius that are located in the Royal Chapel.
The tour will take you through the Grand staircase to some majestic rooms and halls like the porcelain room, the mirror room, the jaw dropping gala banqueting hall and of course the throne room. The royal armory is considered one of the best in the world and it could have been a museum on its own. The palace’s kitchen is once more open for the public two times a day with extra admission.
You can book tickets and get more info at the Royal Palace website.
Parque del Bueno Retiro
El Retiro as they casually call Madrid’s second biggest park and for me the most beautiful, is a magnificent eco-system in the city and for the locals, an inseparable piece of their lives. It’s the place where they go to run, skate, cycle, relax, sunbath or even enjoy a boat ride in the park’s magnificent lake under the imposing monument to Alfonso XII.
You can choose to go in through Puerta del Angel Caido at the end of Calle Claudio Moyano—the fabulous used bookstore street. The park is so big that one can practically spend the whole day there. You can stroll around the popular areas like the lake and Paseo de la Argentina, skate on Paseo Fernan Nunez or see an art exhibition at Crystal or Velasquez palaces. If you want to stay alone leave the main roads and wander on the mostly empty backtrails which in turn lead to small openings with stone benches around.
If your appetite is bigger for what the various cafes and street vendors have to offer then you can head to the Florida Retiro (Paseo Fernan Nunez) for a full lunch or a round of tapas.
Parque del Oeste
At first glance it’s like any of the numerous parks around the city with one big difference though. It hosts an Egyptian temple dedicated to Amun and Isis that was relocated from Aswan when the dam was constructed in order to be saved from the coming flood—the Temple of Debod.
The temple with its two gateways has been rebuilt between two small pools that mirrors its image and highlight the temple’s classic lines. Whenever you go, you will find groups of youngsters laying on the grass around and catching the sun—beautiful.
Casa de Campo
This huge park (Madrid’s biggest—1720 Hectares) used to be a hunting ground for the royal family who also had their hunting estate there. Not far from the Royal Palace, Casa de Campo is more like a small forest than an urban park.
In there you will find the city’s zoo, a huge amusement park and a big lake where people gather around and have picnics. It is so big that it would be impossible to see it in one day. Except for Metro and buses you can reach it by taking the cable car that starts from the Parque del Oeste.
The Flea Markets
The city’s biggest and most famous market is held every Sunday and public holiday. Starting from Plaza de Cascorro and going downhill on alle..
Madrid is a great culinary destination. Countless restaurants and tapas bars offer a wide variety of dishes, most of the times at a very good price. This guide presents some great foods and where to eat them when you are in the Spanish capital.
One of the best Street Foods in Madrid
This place is right in the center of the city, just outside plaza Mayor and specializes in what perhaps is the most popular street food in the city—bocadillo de calamares. Like many foods in Spanish cuisine the taste is in its minimalism. It’s just a baguette with fried calamari and a bit of lemon. Simple is beautiful.
You can eat it there if you find a table, which usually is not the case, or take it away and sit at plaza Mayor just a few meters from La Campana’s door.
When in Spain, there is nothing better than a short break for a sandwich with Jamon Iberico de Belota and half a pint of cold beer. Jamon Iberico is a ham made from Black Iberian pigs that has cured for at least a year. The highest quality grade is Jamon 100% Iberico de bellota and that means that it comes from free range, pure bred Iberian pigs that were fed mostly on acorn and has cured for at least 3 years.
This franchise has many restaurants in Madrid my favorite being the one on the Golden triangle of Art on Paseo del Prado. The best way is to do it like the locals. Sit on the bar and order a bocadillo with Jamon (you can choose the type of Jamon) which is just a baguette with ham. The baguette is always fresh and the jamon melts in your mouth. Delicious!
If you are hungry, you can choose platters with cold cuts and cheeses. They also have main dishes with meat or fish as well but I would stick to hams. The prices are fabulous.
San Bruno Taberna
Brunch and Breakfast the Local Way
My favorite place for breakfast or brunch in La Latina. Let me tell you from the beginning that this is not the place that you go to get pampered, it is hard around the edges as is the character in the bar who doesn’t mess around, but it’s genuine and that’s why I like it.
People come here for a coffee or even a quick drink before work so the service is fast and to the point. They make good café con leche and a dreamy tortilla espanola (omelet with potato) which they serve by the piece with fresh bread on the side. As for prices, it doesn’t get better.
If you go in the morning, everybody will be sitting around the bar, so why would you sit anywhere else? I enjoyed having my breakfast while watching the regulars come and go after a quick chat and a coffee.
Behind the church of San Gines on a small alley is the oldest and most renown churreria in Madrid. Churros are long fried pieces of dough which you dip in hot chocolate or coffee before eating them and they are magnificent. You can also try porras which are the same thing just made thicker. The Spanish and Portuguese eat them for breakfast or any other time of the day as a snack.
In San Gines they make fresh churros day and night every day of the year, so you can go and eat them whenever you crave them. You have to go to the cashier and order before you can seat. Be aware that many times there is a long line around the door.
A fifth generation family run churreria downtown. If you seat at the bar you can actually see how the churrero shapes the churros before throwing them into the hot oil and how he turns the big spiral of dough and cuts it into porras.
The churros are spectacular and the chocolate heavenly made. The staff is pretty fast on service and their all white uniforms add to the ambience. Their English are anything from mediocre to non-existent but you shouldn’t have problem ordering una racion de churros y un chocolate con leche.
This beautiful old market building dates back to the early 1900s and has been transformed into a hip food plaza where you can find all kinds of local dishes, many times with a fusion twist. Numerous little shops offer everything from tasty seafood and jamon to delicious cheeses and desserts.
The metallic building with the extensive glass surfaces is a part of the experience by itself. It’s not the place that you go for proper lunch or dinner, it’s the casual kind of joint that you go with friends on a winter afternoon and catch up over tapas and several bottles of white Cava.
It surely is more expensive than the average tapas bar, but it does offer something unique. It stays open till midnight on weekdays and till one o’clock during Fridays, Saturdays and holidays.
My favorite tavern in La Latina and Madrid in general. Located in one of La Latina’s daedalian alleys this small place will win you with the simplicity and quality of its food.
Be prepared for a greasy egg ‘n’ ham extravaganza. Their specialty is dishes like huevos rotos—fried potatoes with broken fried eggs and bacon on top (your cholesterol goes up just by reading it) and roscas (big bagel sandwiches) with jamon. The food goes down easy with a glass of house wine which is pretty good.
It’s not a big place—ten tables and another ten-twelve down the cellar. They close after lunch at 16:00 on weekdays and 17:00 on weekends and open again for dinner time at 19:30 and 20:00 respectively.
Arroceria Marina Ventura
One of the best paellas in Madrid
Though paella is a Valencian plate, you should try it no matter where you are in Spain. Paella is the queen of Spanish cuisine and for me, the seafood one is the queen of all paellas. But if you are gonna have it, you must have it right.
The problem is that most places won’t use fresh seafood, and that’s why if you want a really good paella, you have to go to the right place.
Photo: V. Privitzerova
Squid, shrimp, prawns, crabs, clams and mussels all swimming in a mouthwatering sea of saffron gold rice. Need to say more?
It will set you back 30€ to 40€ per person but this is something to be expected for high quality seafood.
A great restaurant with cellar rooms and a great place to try cocido Madrileño. This traditional stew is made with chickpeas, pork belly, beef, bacon, pork and beef bone, chorizo, blood sausage and vegetables which are slowly boiled in a pot for hours. The outcome is incredible.
Cocido is served in two stages. First the broth is separated from the other ingredients and is served as a soup. Then a platter with the rest of the stew is brought as the main. Incredible and even though it’s mainly a winter food, I would eat it anytime.
The service is flawless and the space warm and atmospheric. Private dining rooms are also available. Prices are pretty good for this kind of meal and will set you back around 25€ per person.
Open every day from 13:00 to 16:00 and from 21:00 to midnight except Sunday night that it’s closed.
And here are a couple of smooth places in Madrid to have a drink after you dinner.
A Cosmopolitan Relic
Madrid’s first cocktail bar was founded by bartender Perico Chicote in 1931 whose love for mixology started when he was 17 working as an assistant bartender at Ritz Hotel in Madrid. His huge collection of more than 20 thousand bottles that was stored in the bar’s basement was legendary but unfortunately doesn’t exist anymore. It was sold after Chicote’s death in ’77.
Everything else is still in place though. The leather stools in front of the long bulky bar, the mirrors and the wood veneers, even the payphone outside the toilets.
You will not believe the number of international personalities that have passed through its revolving door and sat on its Art Deco armchairs until you see the hundreds of photos hanging behind the bar and on the walls. Just to name a few: Ava Gardner, Audrey Hepburn, Frank Sinatra, Sophia Loren, Bettie Davis, Salvador Dali and of course Ernest Hemingway.
You cannot say that you’ve experienced Madrid’s nightlife till you have one of its dreamy cocktails.
Small and very cozy venue that hosts different live sessions—mostly Jazz, every week. Heavy names like Barry Harris and Freddy Cole have performed on its stage in the past.
The AfroJam on Wednesdays is legendary and shouldn’t be missed. I loved the warm party ambient made by the musicians and the clients many of whom seemed to be regulars. This is not the place that you sit on your chair for long.
Atalanti is one of the most popular trails in Cyrpus
Atalanti trail is the second highest in Cyprus after Artemis and one of the most beautiful on Troodos Mountain. Cyprus may not be a popular hiking destination but truth is that it has some excellent trails extending from easy to moderate difficulty which are perfect for families and people who want to have some fun walking out in the nature but without pushing the envelope.
From all the trails on the island, Atalanti is maybe the most ideal, since even though it’s not a small one—it’s around 14km long, it is relative flat, doesn’t have any particular difficult or dangerous sections and still will reward hikers with some amazing views while being isolated enough to give the sought after feeling of serenity that we all are looking for when we spend a day outdoors. There are other great trails on Troodos which are circular but they are a bit more demanding with the exception of Artemis.
The fact that it is circular, is a great benefit since no special arrangements have to be made in order to hike it. The starting and finishing points are near Troodos square—the most famous spot on the mountains of Cyprus.
The entrance to the trail is after the CYTA (telecommunications agency) building to the left. Atalanti is one of the few trails in Cyprus with accurate and frequent signs—not that it’s complicated to follow anyway. The trail goes around the peak of Mount Olympus (1952m, the highest on the island) following a clockwise direction through a forest of pines, cedars and junipers. Among them the eternal Troodos juniper (Juniperus foeditissima) which the locals call “invisibles”. Some of these trees are more than 500 years old.
Somewhere around the 3rd kilometer is a stone water tap but I would advise to carry your water from the beginning anyway. The route continues east for a bit more before turning north. The next point of interest is Hadjipavlou chromite mine which used to work in the fifties and early eighties. Chromite is the ore from which chromium is extracted and has various uses, the production of alloy metals being one. The mine’s half collapsed entrance is next to the trail and in case it’s not obvious already, it’s not safe to go in there.
Continuing on the trail, we kept admiring the views to Troodos towards Pafos, the most isolated and wild part of the mountain line. One interesting feature of trails in Cyprus is that the forestry department places small tags along the trail next to several flora and rocks, with their name and some useful information about them.
After the 8th kilometer, the trail starts turning to the west towards the Prodromos-Troodos road. This section is my favorite and the views to the north, the most beautiful I think.
After crossing the road, the trail ceases to be that flat and for the last 4 kilometers its elevation fluctuates a bit as it turns south to the finishing point next to a parking lot near Troodos square.
Overall a very pleasant and relaxing trail which takes around 4 hours to be completed. Perfect for beginners (would you like to read our hiking guide?) and ideal for more experienced hikers who want to have a relaxing day.
The Myth of Atalanti
Atalanti is a Greek mythology character who is present in at least two myths according to which she was an expert huntress, the only female Argonaut (crew of Jason’s mythical ship Argo ) and the fastest runner among mortals.
One of these myths says that see took part in the hunt of the Calydonian Boar which she killed with Meleagros (the king’s son) and won the competition.
According to another myth she refused to get married and wanted to remain pure and loyal to the goddess Artemis. Her father accepted that, under the condition that if anyone challenged and won her in a race, she would have to marry him. Goddess Artemis helped a man named Hippomenis by giving him three golden apples which he used to distract Atalanti during the race and won. Atalanti kept her promise but the romance didn’t last. They both got turned into lions by one of the gods, as a punishment for making love in a temple.
When is the best time to hike Atalanti
Autumn and spring are ideal for hiking Atalanti because of the mild temperatures but it is open all year round, so as long as there is no thick snow (snowfalls are usually in January and February) you can go for it. Beware of the high temperatures in the summer, if possible start early in the morning or later in the day to avoid the big heat. Last time we went in July and preferred to start around 14:30 since the sun doesn’t go down before 20:30 at that time of the year.
How to Get to Atalanti Trail
By car through Limassol or Nicosia (when the distance is similar, I prefer the Limassol way because I don’t have to get in the city).
If you are in Pafos, like road trips and don’t mind narrow snake roads, the route from the west side just before Polis Chrysochous through Peristerona, Lysos, Stavros tis Psokas and Kykkos monastery is perhaps the most beautiful road in Cyprus. It will take double the time but it’s worth it.
If you don’t have a car, there is a bus from Limassol arriving at Troodos square around 11:00 and leaving back by 16:30.