Welcome

Hi.  You are now in the section of Burlaki family website dedicated to our travel notes.

We go on holidays to places near and far a good deal, and while we have no pretences of being travel journalists, we do keep notes of the destinations that we visit, including sights, attractions, restaurants, lodgings, transportation and logistics.  Some of our notes find their way onto online forums, such as Fodors, but we also wanted to give them a permanent web place here.  The content here is being updated as new places are visited or earlier travel diaries are digitized.  Hopefully, you will find here an advice or an idea that will make your next trip to one of these destinations even more pleasurable.

Do not hesitate to contact us with any questions.

Bon voyage!

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Because this site is disguised as an online journal, there are several ways to navigate around:

  1. Browse by Categories in the navigation bar,
  2. Use the Search function at the bottom of the navigation bar,
  3. Check out the cool World Map that puts all places that we’ve been to on the map and lists, by country in alphabetical order, all those places with links to available articles,
  4. Select from the Destinations table of contents that alphabetically lists all destination-overview articles featured on the site.

We use the following simple convention for rating attractions that merit attention.

We like it
♥♥ We like it very much
♥♥♥ We love it

It should be noted that we do not mark our negative recommendations with any pictorial emphasis.

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Following is Ilya’s editorial on Destinations ratings, penned in 2008.
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Discussing my travel experiences, I used to refer to my Top Five Beautiful Cities That I Have Seen ranking. After a good friend of mine, I kept an unofficial track of which of the cities of the world (or, rather, Europe, since I have not been anywhere outside the Old World and the North America, and the latter does not really cut it in this regard, IMHO) I consider the most beautiful.

While I made up a rule about which cities were eligible for my rankings (only major destinations – to keep fairy-tale picture-perfect Bruges, Rothenburgs and San Gimignanos from unfair comparisons with bustling metropolises), I actually never got around to formulating how I defined beauty.

For instance, Prague topped my list ever since we visited it for the first time. For those who have been to that wondrous city, imagine yourself standing on top of the Staromestske tower on a sunny day, gazing out on Karlův Most, Mala Strana and Hradčany. This image is so ingrained in my brain that saying that I have not seen a city more beautiful than Prague is an obvious statement. Recent renovations of many central buildings do not hurt either.

Or take Barcelona. Gaudí aside, there are so many grand and attractive boulevards and squares spread across considerable area that it is easy to call the Catalan capital not only hip and vibrant, but also truly beautiful.

Or Venice. There is simply nothing like it in the world known to me. Say what you want about decay, summer stench and insufferable tourist hordes, but if you ever truly lost yourself in this city and aimlessly strolled its streets, campielli and bridges, you cannot deny that it is a beautiful place.

On the other hand, I never rated Rome high, even though I love it. I adore its squares and fountains, but find the streets that connect them largely unappealing; plus, the incessant obtrusive street vendors selling trinkets and flowers drive me nuts. Florence was downgraded due to the lack of grand fountains on its squares and the vendor factor as well. Madrid has magnificent central boulevards and squares – with fountains – plus Puerta del Sol and Plaza Mayor, but I feel as if you could walk all of the beautiful routes in a couple of hours, and the rest is no more than nice…

The most confusing of all is Paris. Ask me which city I would go to if I only could go to one big city for the rest of my life, and I would pick Paris. But I always said that I did not consider it all too beautiful. It must have been the pervasive dog poop that Parisians refused to pick up (a practice that is finally becoming obsolete). Or, the uniformity of the architecture in the centre of the city, not unattractive, but simply too planned to be called a thing of beauty.

Amsterdam, though, was the last straw. The Dutch capital is undeniably unique, charming and inviting. But it lacks monumental or even extraordinarily impressive edifices. It is also rather dirty, with garbage strewn across sidewalks and floating in the canals. Would I call Amsterdam beautiful? Only to a degree. Nowhere close to the top of my list. But I am definitely in love with it on the level approaching Paris, Venice or Barcelona.

So, I decided to more of less abandon my Top 5 list. Instead, for all places that I’ve been to (and not just cities, but whole regions as well), I’ll come up with the indication of how much I like it and what I think is the best and the worst about it and use that as a guidance in providing my opinion on the various destinations. The Destinations list has two ratings: One is an attempt to objectively rate the place as a tourist destination; the other is a gauge to measure my feelings about the city or region (no hearts here – they are reserved for single-attraction ratings). There is link to the apropriate article for each entry on the list.

Enjoy!

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