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Visit amazing art galleries such as Museo Del Prado and Reina Sofia and parks, dine in fine restaurants and tapas bars and shop for fine clobber in elegant shops and boutiques. Due east of here is Barcelona, a zany city stuffed to the gunnels with Gothic architecture and bizarre buildings, the surrealistically spectacular Sagrada Familia being a case in point. From Picasso, to Miro and Dali, the city has an on-fire arts-scene, fabulous restaurants dishing up Catalan cuisine (try Catalan custard – bodacious stuff) and the famous Ramblas. Just a heartbeat away is the coast and mountains. Laze away in Sitges or head north to Montserrat. Don’t leave the north without visiting Figueras. Here lovers of Surrealism will discover the splendiferous Dali Teatre-Museum. Words can’t actively describe what you’ll witness here. Just go. Seville is probably the most popular city in Andalusia. Noted for its oranges, splendid architecture and famous festivities (especially the Eastern parades and April fair) attract many tourists. Visit the beautiful Cathedral, with the tomb of Christopher Columbus and the Giralda tower. Across the cathedral square, you’ll find the Alcazar, an awesome medieval Islamic palace. Last but not least, take a look at the astonishing Plaza de España where all the provinces of Spain are represented. Also in Andalucia is Granada. Here, you can’t miss a visit to the Alhambra Palace set at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. And in Cordoba, the city’s famous Mezquita (mosque) is considered one of the greatest treasures of Moorish-Andalucian art with spectacular red and white arches. Some football aficionados might confuse this with the Sydney Swans Headquarters, natch. It’s not.

A SLICE OF TURKEY Dotted with battlegrounds, ruined castles and the palaces of great empires, Turkey is the land where Alexander the Great slashed the Gordion Knot, where Achilles battled the Trojans in Homer’s Iliad, and where the Ottoman Empire fought battles that would shape the world. Turkey is busting at the seams with history, yet it offers giddy pleasures, too. Spend an afternoon being pummelled and pampered at a hamam, let the waters of the Mediterranean lap at your toes or get adventurous at Nemrut Dagi National Park. Bon vivants need look no further than

Istanbul, where markets, bars and restaurants are piled high across the labyrinthine streets of Sultanahmet. In a city that straddles both Europe and Asia, sample real Turkish Delight (lokum), explore the sultan’s harem at Topkapi Palace and marvel with sundowner in hand on a rooftop bar at the mesmerising muezzin’s call to prayer wafting across the city at dusk. Pay your respects at solemn and hauntingly beautiful Gallipoli. A pilgrimage is best made outside of the two week period surround ANZAC Day, when things are at their busiest. Puzzle at the legendary ruins of Troy and even

if you search for hunky Brad Pitt, you won’t find him. Range across the Roman ruins of Pergamum and incomparable Ephesus. Bathe in the thermal waters at Pamukkale and spot a whirling dervish or two in pious Konya. Captivating and compelling Cappadocia offers

troglodyte villages replete with underground churches, windswept landscapes dotted with wind-hewn fairy chimneys and markets dating from Ottoman times. It’s a don’t miss. On the road back to the big smoke, visitors hit Ankara. Where? Yes, there. Actually the capital of Turkey, Ankara was realised as such in 1920 by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk – the grandfather of modern Turkey. You’ll see his revered likeness in all businesses, public places and homes across the nation. Treat Turkey as that most quintessential of

Turkish dishes, the meze, a table heaving with gastronomic treats. Ditch the menu, order a plate of everything and feast until you can’t fit anything else in. It’s an addictive destination.

CROATIAN SALVATION Croatia’s always been there, but too many folk have been keeping it a secret. It’s no wonder. Along its 1778km coastline, a sparkling sea winds around rocky coves, lapping at pine-fringed beaches. Istrian ports bustle with fishermen whilst in Dalmatia, cities pulsate with nightlife amid ancient Roman ruins. Yachts tack up and down the spectacular coastline dotted with 1185 islands, stopping at the walled city of Dubrovnik, the Roman city of Split with its spectacular Diocletian Palace and islands such as Hvar and Korcula. Te interior landscape is just as beguiling, even though less visited. Soak in a thermal spa at Istarske Toplice in Istria. Hike through pristine forests. Feast on fresh mushrooms, olives and raspberries. Let the waterfalls of Plitvice hydrate your face. And then there’s the culture. Te country that delivered sartorial elegance (and boardroom domination) by inventing the neck tie has endured Roman, Venetian, Italian and Austro- Hungarian rule. You’ll find a strong central European flavour in the baroque architecture of Zagreb, and Italian devotion to the dolce vita percolates up from the coast, insidiously permeating Croatian food and style. During high days and holidays, the country’s Slavic soul emerges, as colourfully costumed dancers whirl about to traditional folk songs.

SIMPLY SICILY ‘Bedda’ is Sicilian for ‘beautiful’, a word that aptly describes the little boot of Italy. You won’t be the first to visit. Richard the Lionheart and Eleanor of Aquitane were here a fair few years back. Mario Puzo’s Vito Corleone, scared a few folk off back in the 70s with the Pacino/Brando

family blockbuster, but folk can’t get enough of Sicily, an island that is black and white and a million shades of grey. Te enchanting land where Archimedes taught and St Paul preached was a Greek colony, a Roman province, an Arab Emirate and a Norman kingdom. Te legacy of Sicily’s awesomely chequered past is a treasure chest of riches – art, archaeology and folklore combined with amazing scenery under the watchful eye of smouldering Mt Etna. Check out Mt Etna and its perfect 10,000ft Vulcan cone and Stromboli. You can walk much of the way and take guided tours to the very top. UNESCO has been piling the accolades on

Sicily (five separate World Heritage sites). Te finest mosaics still in place anywhere in the Roman world are in the Villa del Casale near Piazza Armerina. Tey include the remarkable ‘Girls in Bikinis’ mosaic, eerily setting the fashion for the distant future. Say hi to the Corleone family, or at least some of the famous locations Francis Ford Coppola shot for his famous Mafioso trilogy. One of Coppola’s best locations is Palermo’s fabulous Teatro Massimo, where the opera scene for Godfather III was captured. Capital of Byzantine Sicily in the 9th century,

Taormina is an almost perfectly preserved medieval town. Visit the awesome Greek theatre.

Tis place might have been the blueprint for the modern-day Gold Class experience! Other places worthy of a look include the former Roman colony of Syracuse and buzzing Palermo. Palermo offers a giant treasure-trove of palaces, castles and churches with a unique architectural fusion of Byzantine, Norman, Arab, Renaissance and Baroque flavours. Get around on buses, or if hiring a car, demand a compact Fiat 500 – a modern take on the Fiat Bambino. You’ll feel like Robert de Niro’s waiting, and you’re talking Italian. If you fancy any of these destinations let

Phil Hoffmann Travel design an itinerary with a twist, you won’t be disappointed. April 2012

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