Lisbon: A guide to the museums

Of the 5 months I spent in Europe, 5 weeks were spent in Portugal. So far, it is my favourite country visited. Yet with 5 weeks in this beautiful country, I still did not have the opportunity to see all that it has to offer – a couple more trips are warranted in the future.

I did not have a chance to visit all the museums but I will give my opinion on those I was able to get to.

Gulbenkian Museum (Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian)

This museum is sponsored by the Gulbenkian family and their collection of art. They have pieces from all over the world dating back many centuries. They have an extensive Asian art and Middle Eastern art collection – the largest I have seen yet. Often there is a special exhibit on the premises – currently they have Rembrandt art for all to view. The price is very modest – 5 euros; Sunday admission is free for all. I needed 4-5 hours to go through the whole museums – if you are only interested in some exhibits then naturally the tour will take less time. You can visit their site here for more details: Gulbenkian Museum

MUDE (Museu do Design e da Moda)

This is a lovely museum located down by the river in downtown Lisbon. It is the Museum of Style and Design. When I was visiting there was a temporary exhibition on the costumes of Fado musicians – I developed a fondness for this style of music so this exhibit was perfect. The exhibits rotate and feature ideas in fashion and interior design. It is a unique collection and before seeing it in Portugal I had not seen this type of museum elsewhere. The museum is open Tuesdays to Sundays and entry is free at all times. If you’re going for a stroll on Rua Augusta, this is a nice pit stop. See their website for details on current exhibits: MUDE

Jerónimos Monastery

The monastery was commissioned by King Manuel I in 1501 to celebrate the success of Portugal’s seafarers around the world – especially Vasco de Gama’s voyage to India. The structure was completed around 1600 and was almost destroyed in an earthquake in 1775.

I had passed this monastery on a motorcycle tour with my friend Zé and was, perhaps, the most excited at the prospect of visiting it at a later date. I found the architecture and design breathtaking, and the surrounding green space is splendidly laid out.

You’re free to walk around the museum at your own pace and relish the peacefulness in the courtyard. I spent some time in the chapel – everything was made of solid wood and there were no sounds from the outside. You could almost picture people 300 years ago sitting in the that same room not giving a second thought to where they were sitting. Today, we appreciate the beauty of places like this monastery because they are external to our daily way of life.

I feel that visiting this monastery is a must if you are in Lisbon. Down the street you will find Pastéis de Belém, originating in 1837, where you will eat the best pastries in Portugal (try an espresso too). And close by is the Museu Coleção Beardo, a free admission modern art gallery.

Museu Coleção Beardo

I truly enjoyed this modern art exhibit. It was spacious and the pieces were well laid out. There wasn’t too much congestion either, making for a very serene experience. The gallery exhibits specific artists and rotates through them throughout the year. I admit that I am not a huge art fan or expert; if you share my sentiments I would recommend this gallery. It was engaging and pleasant to walk through. Many of the pieces were eye catching and energetic.



© Tijana Djokic and Eyes.Wide.Open., 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts, links, and photos may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Tijana Djokic and Eyes.Wide.Open with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Coimbra: Intelligent beauty

This will be one of my shorter posts and not because Coimbra isn’t a beautiful place – I just didn’t have the chance to spend more time there. Fortunately travelling there isn’t too difficult. Trains run regularly from the north and south of Portugal to Coimbra – the university city of the country.

I couch surfed while here and what a trek it was to get to the apartment. The first thing I thought of when I saw the layout of the city was Brazil. I am sure most of you have seen the iconic neighbourhoods built on the hills, looking like layers of little matchboxes. I think I took 2 elevators and stairs to finally climb a nearly vertical hill to the apartment building. I had never been so happy to arrive at my destination.

The University of Coimbra is the reason for the city’s reputation. It was the only university in Portugal until 1911 and is one of the oldest universities in Europe, established in 1290. It has many faculties and its architecture is breathtaking. Many students from all over the country study here all year round. When I checked it out I climbed the Monumental Stairs (yes stairs are a common theme in Coimbra) to reach the main road leading to the main university building and square. Either side of the road is flanked by statues and large colonial style buildings. Students wear the customary uniform consisting of a black cape – very fantastical. However, the students are proud to wear their capes and where them everywhere they go.

I had the opportunity to enter the Joanine Library – it is absolutely breathtaking. Unfortunately photography is not allowed in the building, but it will be forever sealed in my memory. It possessed everything a library should possess: dark wood shelves, old cloth-bound books, solid wood tables and chairs, stained glass windows, lamps, rich carpeting, and a character that I cannot describe in words. In the basement you will find the student prison (not used anymore thankfully!) and a small museum about the history of the university. The library is connected to the main hall housing the administrative offices and some class rooms. Between these in the main square is the infamous clock tower. These quarters possess a rich history and it was quite moving to be there.

There is a gorgeous garden where the zoology faculty is located. It is flanked by old Roman aqueducts. There is a southern European style house on the premises with a small forgotten garden in the back. In the fall the trees slowly turn a deep orange colour and are reflected in the fountain in the centre of the green space. From here I went to a cantina which is a student restaurant. The food is fantastic for student fare and the service is quick. Picture the high school movies back in the 90s with the line ups in the lunch room and plastic trays- this was exactly that.

And surprisingly I did party while in Coimbra. I heard from my friend Zé in Lisbon that nightlife is great in this little city. We went to a club on the main strip of town. European clubs are great for free cover and inexpensive liquor. You can also meet many international students on campus and in the local bars. One of the coolest experiences was the party in the streets behind the university campus, in the old city. Tons of students were out in their black robes, drinking in the streets. It was so electric.

Overall, I was actually shocked that Coimbra would be so enjoyable to visit. It was a truly enchanting place and I am sure I will go back some day in the future for a little flashback to my younger days.

© Tijana Djokic and Eyes.Wide.Open., 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts, links, and photos may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Tijana Djokic and Eyes.Wide.Open with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Why We Need To Appreciate Our Own Aloneness

This piece really drives home what I aimed to achieve while on my trip through Europe. Great concept, this feeling is something everyone should strive for.

Mohadesa Najumi


A great writer once said; the only way out is in. This is certainly true today as everyone takes his or her own individual path towards escapism. We are all trying very hard to escape our daily lives, or even worse, ourselves. We do this through staring down at our mobile phones every chance we get, by filling our minds with endless non-stimulations such as television and by spending countless hours in the companies of others. Nobody wants to be alone, and even worse; nobody wants to be alone with their abyss of thoughts and doubts. When you are amongst a group of people and most of them are busy doing something on their phone; you must know that these people aren’t exceptionally busy. But, it is just easier to engage with a device that does not require any human interaction. Truth is, most of us aren’t aware of…

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I Have Changed

Recently I noticed that my outlook on life has shifted. I am not sure when it happened or how – but it has thrown me for a loop.

When I finished university everything was about me. I had invested money in an education that would help me find a job and blast me into a serious career. That would have worked out except that I decided to backpack for a few months instead and use all the money I had left. The purpose of my trip was to have new experiences and learn something about myself. I came back with more peace of mind than I had ever had.

More than a year has passed since I returned home and I am struggling with new challenges. I have a contract position with a large company, but how do I make that into a full-time endeavour? How do I save more money? How do I afford to move out? How do I save for my wedding, kids, a property? Two years ago I would never have thought about these questions. Something has changed recently. So my biggest question is: when did I grow up?

I am not sure how many young people struggle with the answers to these questions. Where do you start unraveling the puzzle and finding the solution? I have posed these questions to my father and he provides me with the best answers he can. But he grew up in a time less hostile than ours. Our world today is competitive and gruelling; every man/woman for him/herself. They don’t tell you what the world is really like when you go through school. No one prepares you with the knowledge required to make informed and sound decisions regarding your future. Many people think that they will go through university, get a degree, and bingo you have a job. I can tell you, that is not how it is.

I suppose the purpose of this post is to get people thinking and talking about their own futures. To prepare yourself as much as possible for what awaits in the real world; it’s a big place and it’s easy to get lost. For those of you who have traversed this phase of your life already – how did you make it? And for those of you who are walking this unknown path as I am, what are you concerns? Do you have a plan to make it through? Growing up is a part of life. It happens sooner for some of us, later for others. The important part is the path we take to achieve our personal aspirations.

Prague & Budapest: Not Quite Western Europe

Prague reminded me of a cleaner version of Belgrade. It has that same Communist feel to it, full of culture and rough around the edges. The city relies on its tram network to get around. They are always on time, surprising for vehicles that look ancient. English is not a popular language so it may be difficult to communicate, but it isn’t impossible to find your way around the city.

As most people know, Czech Republic has fantastic beer. My host, Ben, and I went to a pub that sold about 30 micro-brews on tap. They had everything under the sun, it’s really a shame that the same beer isn’t available anywhere in Toronto or in Ontario for that matter. The food on the other hand isn’t as amazing. While it may be cheap, it is bland. We went for dinner at a typical Czech, family-type restaurant close to the apartment, where I ordered a pork filet dish covered in gravy sauce (that resembled jelly), with mashed potato, and bread with a berry sauce on the side. It was interesting, but definitely something I would get sick of very quickly. When it came time to pay. the waiter told us our 10% wasn’t enough, and was forced to give more or less I couldn’t leave. I was extremely offended after that and I still can’t believe it happened. I realized after that the people there are very hung up on money and will do anything to get as much as they can. I would love to say that this was the only rude person I met in Prague, but honestly most people there don’t smile and are not very friendly in general.

The historical centre of Prague is very compact and has a lot to see in a very small area. Right in the middle you can find the Astronomical Clock and Tyn Church, whose towers resemble the ones on the Vecchi castle in Florence only these are more Gothic in appearance. In this square there is also a very large horse and rider statue where you can find tons of tourists taking a rest. On one of my days there I took a trip to the outskirts of Prague to Brenov Monastery which is a Catholic monastery that has its own brewery. I had a pint of some fantastic dark beer before heading out on a walk again through the nearby neighbourhood. I stopped at a little bakery and got some typical Czech appetizer, some sort of pastry with jam. The filo pastry was so soft! I made my way from here up to Prague Castle and it’s cathedral. The guard was changing upon my arrival and it was nice to see a tradition that is performed is so many other countries that still maintain the Royal family and their grounds. The castle is gorgeous, situated up on a hill overlooking the city. The walk is scenic and all downhill from here into another part of the city across the river from the centre of Prague. I enjoyed a hot cup of coffee here before heading home for the evening.

When the time came to leave I took the yellow bus company to Budapest. This bus company has cheap tickets for youth under the age of 25. The bus ride was about 7 hours long with a couple stops along the trip.

Braga & Guimarães: Picturesque North

I took an hour long train ride from Porto to Braga, cost was around 3.5 euros. Braga is a very small place but beautiful. It has a strong historical aura mixed with the young spirit of a university town. I walked to my hostel – Braga Pop Hostel. Now I HAVE to give a little review on this hostel. The location is central (very close to the pedestrian zone). The interior is clean and colourful. The owner is an ex-veterinary doctor who decided she wanted something else in life and opened this place. Breakfast is included everyday with your rooming price. I was there in November so it was a little chilly in the room, but all buildings in Portugal are chilly in the winter so layer up. I always had hot water for my showers, cable, wifi, and no curfew. It is close to the shopping centre as well as the bus station, train station, and other public transportation. The hostel staff were very helpful with tips on where to eat and visit during the days. I really enjoyed my stay at Braga Pop Hostel.

In this article I will mention the places I saw in Braga since I did not partake in any special tours and so my knowledge on the history is limited. Braga’s buildings are very old and have a sense of mysticism about them. The Braga Cathedral is one of the most important buildings in the city and is one of the oldest cathedrals in the Iberian Peninsula. The Antigo Paço Epsicopal or the Episcopal Palace of Braga was the house of the Archbishop of Braga in the past. It has a beautiful garden that is perfect for taking a seat in on a sunny day and reading a book. The Arco da Porta Nova is the gate to the old city of Braga and is especially beautiful on a sunny day; unfortunately I only had the opportunity to see it when it was raining. If you travel a little bit out of the city you will reach the Termas Romanas or Roman Baths of Maximinus. This list is a small selection of places to see while in Braga. If you follow Braga Pop Hostel’s blog you will receive updates on special events happening in the city – perhaps these will be in full swing when you plan to visit. I met Eduardo, a Couchsurfer, while I was there and we went to a local bar where many university students go during the school year. There are plenty of opportunities like this to meet locals and experience Braga the right way.

From Braga I took a 45 minute bus ride (3,15 euros) from the bus station to Guimarães, the European Cultural Capital of 2012 and with good reason. You can walk from the station to the central square of the city and find the tourist information centre close to the intersection of Largo de 25 Abril and Largo do Toural. I spent the entire day walking through various areas of the city. Zona de Couros is the area where leather is produced into products you and I can buy. They have kept remnants of old machinery used for this process for tourists to see along their walk. Largo da Oliveira is a small square where a beverage or meal can be enjoyed on a patio. The square is surrounded by picturesque buildings of multiple colours and stones. Praça de Santiago is another square to be enjoyed on the way to Paço dos Duques. The castle is another sight worth visiting along with the Capela de São Miguel nearby. Finally the Largo do Toural square is an expansive area surrounded by shops featuring a fountain for everyone’s enjoyment.

I paid to enter the Paço dos Duques and it was a great learning experience. I would say it is relatively inexpensive for the value of the tour. The palace was built in the 15th century by the order of Afonso, an illegitimate son of King João I. It was declared a national monument in 1910. The exhibit features each room set up with replicas of furniture and fixtures characteristic of the 15th century. You have the option to rent an audio tour in English and venture through the palace on your own. I found the dining hall very impressive as well as the cathedral connected to the main structure. Photography is allowed without flash of course. At the end of the tour you can walk across the grounds to the castle which was built in the 10th century by the order of Countess Mumadona Dias. There is no fee to enter the castle and you can climb various staircases to reach the top of the towers and see the breathtaking view of the city around you. Paço dos Duques is especially beautiful from the top of the castle.

Braga and Guimarães were recommended to me by my friend Zé in Lisbon and I am so happy I took his advice! These two cities are gorgeous and have so much character, making them unique in the array of cities I visited on my backpacking tour.



© Tijana Djokic and Eyes.Wide.Open., 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts, links, and photos may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Tijana Djokic and Eyes.Wide.Open with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Porto: Uncork a bottle!

I remember landing at the Porto airport on a sunny day in November and I couldn’t have been happier to be there. Portugal is a gorgeous country and I felt I hadn’t seen enough of it the first time around – round two was in order. I took a cheap flight from Budapest to Porto with Ryanair. Discount airlines are a great way to save money when traveling on a budget, but get ready for very early departures from the airport. Porto has a metro connection to their airport from the city – part of the infrastructure that was built for the Eurocup 2004 championships. The airport is modern as well as the metro lines and service is reliable and affordable.

My host lived on Rua de Cedofeita, which is a partly pedestrian zone street with lots of art shops and small clothing stores. The road is made of cobblestones with patios from local cafes lining the street. In November it is still relatively mild in Portugal by Canadian standards, so walking up the hills to my host’s home was quite the workout. Rua de Cedofeita is relatively quiet at all times of the day – definitely a nice place to sit at a cafe and relax.

I spent a total of 3 days in Porto and most of it in the old city. The first time I was in Porto was on my way from Santarem to catch a flight from the Porto airport. At that time I hadn’t noticed how ancient the city really is. When I walked through it in more detail the second time around, the age of the city was very apparent. All the buildings are crumbling before your eyes – obviously at a very slow rate – due in part to the age of the structures but also the governments lack of funding to restore them. In my opinion it is saddening that the government doesn’t invest more into its architecture and preserving the beauty the structures built so long ago.

Porto or Oporto is the second largest city in Portugal has been named the Best Destination 2014 in Europe. Back in 1387, John I of Portugal and Philippa of Lancaster joined the military forces of Portugal and England in the world’s oldest recorded military alliance. Today this city is recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and produces some of the world’s finest port wines and cork products. (2)

P1020385The area by the Duoro River is gorgeous with its colourful buildings, patios, and port wineries. Here you can find vendors selling handmade souvenirs, patios of restaurants and cafes, and boat rides on the river. I found spending time by the river a relaxing way to get away from the bustle of the city streets up on the hill. The Port wineries that make Port wine famous are located along the river and have tours and tastings available to the public throughout the year. Unfortunately I didn’t have the opportunity to take one of the tours, but there is always next time! (1) Another famous “delicacy” in Porto is the francesinha which is a sandwich made with usually with pork, melted cheese, and covered with a beer and tomato sauce. You can get this almost anywhere in Portugal but it is the best in Porto. If you are looking for a great place to have some coffee or a drink, Luis (another Couchsurfer) invited me out to a place called Breyner85 (see the link below). The interior was fantastic; it had a very french/burlesque feel to it with comfy chairs and large wooden tables. A great place!

Photo credit to "porto and the north - the essence of portugal"

Photo credit to “porto and the north – the essence of portugal”

View of the port wineries from the north side of the Duoro River

View of the port wineries from the north side of the Duoro River

Porto is an enchanting place and would be a great place to visit in the summer. There are many regions around the city that are worthwhile seeing and they are on my bucket list for next time.



© Tijana Djokic and Eyes.Wide.Open., 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts, links, and photos may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Tijana Djokic and Eyes.Wide.Open with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The trip that changed my life

August 15, 2013 marked the year anniversary of my embarkment on a 5 month European tour. Last year I felt excited and nervous about what my trip would have in store for me. I packed my bag and took some “me” time. After visiting 15 countries, spanning over 3 seasons, I learned a lot about myself.

I had just finished university a couple months prior to leaving and I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life. Did I want to pursue grad school? Study again to be a paramedic? Continue in the insurance industry? In the end I settled for travelling; I couldn’t have made a better decision. I am sure I am not the only recent grad in the history of the world to feel uncertain about their future. My age group may appear carefree, but we deal with the stresses of finding a career, saving money, building our own homes, with the end product being a fully indpendent adult. The world we live in does not make these processes and decisions any easier to handle. Travelling allowed me to escape the life I had grown accustomed to in Toronto and to, instead, create new memories and experiences.

While abroad I learned that I am much more forgiving, resourceful, and aware than I believed myself to be. Every day brought interactions with new and different people from all over the world. Sometimes they didn’t speak English and I would have to find another way to communicate while remembering to be patient and understanding. Travelling requires a certain degree of organization and keeping a handle on your money. I learned to live without the luxuries I had back home and to live a simpler and more “nomadic” lifestyle. Solo travelling can be dangerous and I quickly became highly aware of my surroundings wherever I went. Furthermore, I quickly realized how much the family and friends, that I left behind in Toronto, meant to me. I never thought I would learn so much in 5 months alone.

I brought these habits and behaviours back with me upon my return home in January 2013. I spent another 5 months after that looking for work, struggling with limited funds, weight gain, and slight sadness at the realization I wasn’t travelling anymore. But using everything I learned about myself, I kept my head up and stayed positive. Time spent looking for employment paid off in the end with my hiring back into the insurance industry this past June. I started continuing education courses to supplement my job search and help advance my future career. Volleyball and yoga helped maintain some structure in my very empty schedule. And of course my family and friends provided moral support through all my ups and downs.

Travelling is a very liberating and educating experience. It is something I would recommend to anyone and everyone at any point in life. I will continue to travel here and there for the rest of my life. I have never done anything that tested my communication and  personal skills at this level. Having a successful and enjoyable time depends on being able to master these skills quickly and with grace. I am 100 times the person I was a year ago and I am forever thankful to everyone who helped me before and after my travels, to those I met during my explorations, and to myself for being able to trust my actions and emotions.

© Tijana Djokic and Eyes.Wide.Open., 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts, links, and photos may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Tijana Djokic and Eyes.Wide.Open with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Berlin: West meets East

I arrived in Berlin with Eurolines bus company from Copenhagen, Denmark. This is probably an 8 hour journey, including a ferry ride. I spent 3 nights here staying with a friend of my sister, who was nice enough to take me in. Berlin is a lively city and I am sure is much nicer to visit in warmer weather, but I can’t complain about the time I spent there the first time around.


Berlin’s public transportation system is fantastic. Toronto’s system can’t even compare to this one. It consists of the S-Bahn (above ground subway), U-Bahn (underground subway), train networks, and bus routes. The network map is so intricate. Fares are relatively inexpensive compared to many other systems and provide a good bang for your Euro. Berlin also has very good connections with other European cities made possible by the many bus companies available. I used Eurolines from Copenhagen to get to Berlin and it was pretty cheap and comfortable bus ride. You can find more information about Berlin’s public transit system here:


Despite the grey weather I did spend some time checking out the major sights to be seen in Berlin. Xenia kept me company on the little tour of the centre. She works at a tourist shop, so who could ask for better company?

Xenia and I by the Berliner Dom

Xenia and I by the Berliner Dom

The Berliner Dom is a beautiful church that looms over the small park and nearby museum. Its architecture is beautiful and imposing. Beside it you can find the Altes Museum and a small park with benches that offers a nice place to sit and read by the river. There was a nice little art market beside the Germany History Museum with a diverse selection of pieces for sale by locals. I walked along the main street leading to the Brandenburg Gate which was full of people and construction. Berlin is putting in a lot of money to restore aging facades in the tourist centre. Near the Brandenburg Gate you can find young people walking, drinking coffee, break dancing, and then the usual money grabbers dressed up in costumes. I even got Mario and Luigi in a couple of mine. Next stop was the Reichstag on our way to Bundestag U-bahn station. The Reichstag has a lot of security and it has a very eerie feel to it when you pass it. I suppose that is due to its history and the fact that it was mid-November when I was there. It didn’t feel welcoming at all.

Brandenburg Gate

Brandenburg Gate



Lastly I have to mention the East Side Gallery which is a portion of the Berlin Wall that has murals painted all over it. I happened to be there on what would be Remembrance Day in Canada and it was very creepy. No one in Berlin seems to acknowledge that anything ever happened. Anyway, the art is quite something. It was nice to spend some time slowly walking by all the pieces and analyzing their meanings.

Food and Drink

Everyone is familiar with typical German food, the bratwurst and the sauerkraut. But Berlin is a multicultural city and there are plenty of other options. There are plenty of Turkish people, making döner a very popular choice. I can say with confidence that it is amazing and nowhere else in Europe can you find anything that compares. In Toronto there is a place at Caledonia Rd. and Eglinton Ave. W. called Babos Donerpoint, only one to compare in taste and quality to what I encountered in Berlin.

Beer is fantastic in Germany, obviously, and it is very inexpensive. You could get drunk with 10 euros and a visit to the grocery store. Beer in bars is also very inexpensive in comparison with many other cities worldwide. I spent a fun time with a couch surfer named Nigel, visiting a couple places and exploring Oranienstraße. First we had a couple pints at Belushi’s Bar and Hostel, which is a sports bar essentially with a hostel attached, very lively place. Then we went to some Turkish cocktail bar which I cannot remember the name of. And lastly, another bar, which may have been a LGBT establishment, but I cannot be sure. All in all it was a good night: lots of alcohol while spending very little money plus good company.

I think everyone should visit Berlin if they can. Next time I will take more time to visit museums and some historical sights from the World Wars. But three nights isn’t enough for all that, I would suggest a week in Berlin if you want to get more out of it.


Berlin Public Transportation –

Berlin Tourism –

German Beers –

Babos Donerpoint –

Belushi’s Bar and Hostel –

© Tijana Djokic and Eyes.Wide.Open., 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts, links, and photos may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Tijana Djokic and Eyes.Wide.Open with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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