TRAVEL

OKTOBER FEASTS

Unlike the freshly brewed rakiya savoured in small glasses amid a handful of fellow brewers or family members, at Oktoberfest, which celebrates the new beer produced by Munich's breweries, beer is drunk in one-litre tankards, called Maß, in the company of hundreds of thousands. Oktoberfest is the largest public festival in the world.

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RAIDERS OF NOAH'S ARK

Hasan Baba has stuck to the same daily routine for the past 23 years. When he wakes up in his little room at the information centre near Durupınar, he looks out through his window and sees the eternal snow cap of Mount Ararat. Then he makes tea. He tidies up the exhibition room, cleaning the modest collection that includes pictures, drawings, newspaper clippings, fossils and mysterious chunks which, according to the labels, are petrified wood dating from the time of the “Great Flood”. The elderly Kurd always stops in front of one framed letter. It came all the way from the United States.

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THESSALONIKI

Just as people can't hide love or a cough, cities can't hide their history. Thessaloniki is no exception. This part of the Thermaic Gulf was making history centuries before 315 BC, when the Macedonian King Cassander founded a city there. He christened the new settlement after his wife, Thessalonike, the daughter of Filip II of Macedonia, who was herself named after one of her father's victories.

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A KIND OF PARADISE, TO BE DISCOVERED

Anyone who has ventured as far south as Rezovo on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast has one tantalising memory: the enormous, completely empty beach seen from Rezovo's self-styled village square. It is huge, the sand looks extremely fine, and there is no one in sight: just the type of thing you could experience in Bulgaria before the Great Construction Boom of the mid-2000s. You don't get beaches like that in Europe anymore, you catch yourself thinking. They belong to Southeast Asia or the Caribbean, don't they; yet this one is right in front of you, within an arm's length's reach.

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ZAGREB

I like seeing cities wake up. There's something special about those early morning hours when shopkeepers are sweeping pavements, groggy dog owners are out for the first walk of the day, and the smells of breakfast start to waft through the air.

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HIDDEN ISLAND

Rising out of the waves of the Aegean just two hours by ferry from Alexandroupoli, Samothrace is the answer to the most puzzling Greek paradox: where can you find an island with an idyllic landscape, dramatic mountains, a classical past, friendly locals and excellent beaches - and no tourists?

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FOR MEN'S EYES ONLY

A place like Mt Athos makes you realise what temptations life has in store. In the monastic republic, established on the easternmost finger of the Chalcidice Peninsula in 885 by a chrysobull, or edict, of Byzantine Emperor Basil I, almost everything carries the stamp of “temptation”. On the Holy Mountain, however, anything regarded as “temptation” is banned.

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THESSALONIKI BEYOND IKEA

It is a truly gorgeous day today - the sun is shining, birds are singing in gardens which are full of colourful bulbs and bushes, and the water of the Aegean is shimmering in the light.

Thessaloniki doesn't need much of an introduction: for more than a decade it has been a favourite shopping as well as holiday destination among Bulgarians and expats alike. Once the "ignored little sister" of Athens, Salonika is lively and young, with its own rhythm and spirit as well as cultural, economic and gastronomic life.

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THE BALKANS' LEAST KNOWN CAPITAL

A car comes racing out of the Ottoman charshiya, or bazaar, in Skopje, screeches past the steps in front of the Tito-era shopping centre and slams into a streetlamp. The driver throws the car into reverse and speeds away. Moments after he disappears into the dark streets of the old town, the lamp post snaps in two and crashes down onto the pavement.

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