Friday, October 15, 2021

Austria


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Austria, largely mountainous landlocked country of south-central Europe. Together with Switzerland, 

 Austria conjures up images of snow-capped peaks of the Alps and crystal blue lakes surrounded by thatched roof houses. While this picture of natural beauty is accurate, Austria is also steeped in imperial history and wildly famous for its classical music and performing arts. Age old handicrafts continue to be an important part of Austria’s culture and make popular souvenirs. There is plenty to be explored and enjoyed in this small land-locked country in Europe.

Summer or winter, visitors can enjoy the natural beauty of Austria. During the summer months, exploring the many lakes and mountains, especially in the salzkammergut Lake Region, is a must. The picturesque towns have resisted the pressures of modernization and have remained almost unchanged for centuries. During the winter months, some of the best skiing in Europe can be found in the Austrian Alps. Whether it’s skiing at the Arlberg Mountains or in kitzbuhlvisitors will find a nice combination of beautifully-groomed runs and exciting backcountry options.

It is not only Austria’s natural beauty that visitors seek out, but also its history, cuisine, culture, and arts. From the timeless city of Innsbruck with its famous Golden Roof , to the musical capital of Salzburg, and the famous sacher  cake in Vienna, there is much to see and experience in Austria. Known for their hospitality and kind demeanor, visitors who don’t speak German will get along here just fine, as most Austrians speak some, if not fluent english

Austria offers a wide range of accommodations, from luxury to affordable. Cities offer large international hotel chains, whereas in the smaller Alpine towns, it is nice to stay at a pension – a family-run bed and breakfast. These well-maintained, clean, and affordable lodgings offer tourists the chance to enjoy real Austrian hospitality and great home-cooked meals. In fact, if visiting remote villages, staying at a pension may be the only accommodation option available.

Most international visitors arrive in Austria via one of the country’s many international airports. However, those who are already traveling around Europe can easily access Austria by train. The country is well-connected to the European railway network, as well as the region’s motorway network. Traveling inside Austria can easily be done using the efficient train system, but some of the remote Alpine areas are best accessed by car. Self-driving is easy on the highways of Austria, which are well-maintained and well-signposted. However, care needs to be taken while driving on winding Alpine roads, especially in winter.


Saturday, September 11, 2021

Bahamas island


 


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Bahamas consists of a chain of islands spread out over some 800 kilometres (500 mi) in the Atlantic Ocean, located to the east of Florida in the United States, north of Cuba and Hispaniola and west of the British Overseas Territory of the Turks and Caicos Islands (with which it forms the Lucayan archipelago).


The best kept secret of The Bahamas is the country’s sheer size and diversity. With 16 major islands, The Bahamas is an unmatched destination, a heart-pounding adventure across 100,000 square miles of the world’s clearest ocean spend a day in The Exumas with the world-famous swimming pigs. Then snorkel through an underwater cave, find a secret sandbar, and spot stingrays and starfish through crystal-clear waters its fishing for the big catch, and the stakes are high. It’s a competition against the world’s best with a grand prize on the line– a blue Marlins island hopping through the Exuma Cays is a truly extraordinary experience. Cruise the crystal clear waters to visit the swimming pigs, snorkel an underwater cave, and pet mellow nurse shark tuckeds away at the end of a winding unpaved road in Great Abaco is the creative world of The Johnston Art foundry .there are over 180 blue holes in Andros—natural wonders centuries in the making. And at Blue Holes National Park, there’s one that’s just right for an epic afternoon Androsia Batik has been called the unofficial fabric of The Bahamas, and it’s been handmade on Andros Island since the very beginning ...Junkanoo's standing as one of the Caribbean's most celebrated and spirited carnivals is undisputed.

From colourful costumes to exuberant dance routines, participants spend months preparing for the pageantry of this street parade accompanied by the steady beat of whistles, cowbells, horns, and goatskin drums that starts in the wee hours after midnight. Catch this celebration of Bahamian culture and history on Boxing Day—aka the day after Christmas—as well as on New Year's Day and many Saturdays throughout the summer. The largest Junkanoo celebration takes place on Bay Street, in downtown Nassau, but Bahamians across the 16 islands celebrate this joyful tradition.

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Grete greek



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As Greek islands go, Crete is the largest, located far south near the Libyan sea. Its location means it has good year-round temperatures averaging from 52 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter months to 79 degrees in the summer, sometimes much hotter, reaching over 100 degrees.

This means there’s no bad time to visit.

Because of its varied geography with mountains inland, a selection of popular sandy beaches, and much quieter hideaways, Crete has a wide variety of day trips to suit all tastes. Some of the best have been curated here for you.

1. Hiking In Samaria Gorge

Nestled within the White Mountains National Park lies the most famous and longest trekking gorge in Europe, the 10-mile Samaria Gorge.

It starts fromi south of the island — meaning “wooden staircase” as there is a wooden staircase that descends into the gorge.

The trek itself goes through beautiful scenery all the way to the small seaside town of Africa  Roumeli on the coast of the Libyan Sea.Along the way, you’ll be rewarded with many different species of flora and fauna and wild Cretan goats.

Pro Tips

It’s open from May 1 to October 31 from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. There are no facilities in the Gorge. Although there are occasional spots to sit and rest, there’s very little shade, so take water to drink (there are standpipes to refill your bottle), light food, sunhat and lotion, and sturdy walking shoes.

July and August can reach very high temperatures, sometimes over 100 degrees, so hike it early morning or in the spring or fall. A reasonable level of fitness is advised, and take your time; the trek can last upwards of 7 hours. Rangers are available throughout the route to help if anyone should get into any trouble, such as a sprained ankle or fall.

Regular local bus services run from the Cretan port town of Chania to the entrance at Xyloskalo and also from the exit at Agia Roumeli. Or your hotel can arrange local transport.

Just over 50 miles southwest of the harbor of Chania lies Elafonisi, a small islet with aqua waters and coral creating a pink effect. When the sea is calm, you can walk from the beach out to the islet — connected by a small reef. It’s said to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the country. Left untouched for many years, its beauty caught the eye of locals who semi-developed it into what you’ll see now.

It’s quite flat, but anyone with mobility issues should bring a stick to help them walk over the sand. As an organized beach with sunbeds, umbrellas, and a canteen, high summer is very busy with families, so it’s best to visit late spring/early summer or early fall when the weather is still warm, but children have returned to school.

You can drive, but as the road is single tracka lot of the way once off the national road, it’s not for the faint-hearted, especially when meeting a bus. Therefore, public transport from Chania or an organized tour is best.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Iguazu falls (Argentina &Brazil)


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Declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1984, Iguazu Falls is often revered as the world’s most spectacular waterfall. Situated on the border of the Brazilian state, Parana, and the Argentine province of Misiones, Iguazu Falls spans 1.7 miles (2.7km) in width, and features 275 individual waterfalls, with heights ranging from 196-270ft (60-82m). The name ‘Iguazu’ is loosely translated from the indigenous Guarani language as “big water”. Unsurprisingly, former first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, reportedly exclaimed “Poor Niagara” upon seeing Iguazu Falls for the first time. Iguazu Falls is undoubtedly one of the most spectacular treasures of our natural world

The falls form part of both the Iguacu National Park (Argentina) and the Iguazu National Park (Brazil), which have both been declared World Heritage sites. Approximately, 80% of the falls are located in Argentina and 20% in Brazil.

Crossing over from one side of the falls to another is not difficult. The footpaths on the Brazilian side tend to focus more on reaching good vantage points to see the panorama, whilst the Argentinean side allows visitors to see the waterfall up-close. It is said that the Brazilian side is for viewing the falls and the Argentinean side is for experiencing them.

The Argentinean side of Iguazu Falls offers tourists a number of vantage points to see incredible panoramic views, as well as the opportunity to view the falls from above.

There are two different trails available on the Argentinean side of the falls; the upper falls, and the lower falls. The trail to the upper falls provides the opportunity to walk across several of the falls via catwalk, and to overlook the water flowing over the edges. The lower falls trail, on the other hand, offers some of the best close-up views of the falls. Both trails on the Argentinean side are best taken in the morning hours, when the sun is rising from behind and providing excellent lighting conditions.

Brazilian Side

The Brazilian side offers the most complete panoramic views of Iguazu Falls. Ideally, you should visit in the morning, whilst the sun is behind you, lighting the falls. It is possible to cover the Brazilian side in just a few morning hours.

As such, it is possible to visit both the Argentinean and Brazilian sides of Iguazu Falls, covering all vantage points, in just a day and a half. However, a visit to Iguazu Falls is certainly not an experience to be rushed, and so allowing for more time is recommended.

Devils Throat

The Devils Throat (or, Garganta del Diablo) is a U-shaped cliff, marking the border between the two countries. It is often considered to be the most impressive thing about Iguazu Falls. At over 260ft (80m) high, and 1.7mi (2.7km) wide, about half of the Iguazu Rivers water flow spills into the Devil’s throat. With water flowing from 3 sides, it offers visitors a 260-degree view of the waterfall.

It is advised to view Devils Throat in the afternoon, as the sun will have risen above the falls by then. If you visit Devils Throat in the morning, the view will be disturbed by the glare of the sun.

Things to do at Iguazu Falls

There is a lot to do at Iguazu Falls, and therefore a 1-day trip is not recommended, particularly when taking into consideration its remote location.

One of the most exciting ways to experience the falls is by taking a jet boat tour. Jet boat tours take you really close to the Falls, so visitors should be prepared to get very wet. You can also get a helicopter ride over Iguazu Falls, to get a spectacular birds eye view. Jungle safari tours offer tourists the opportunity to be educated about the subtropical rainforests of the national park in a fun environment. For adrenaline junkies, rappelling is available at Iguazu Falls. This involves a controlled descent using rope down the vertical cliff face on the Brazilian side of the Fall


Portrayals in film

The Iguazu Falls have had the honor of featuring in many Hollywood movies, including Mr. Magoo (1997), Miami Vice (1996) and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008).


When is the best time of year to Iguazu Falls?

The weather at Iguazu Falls is quite consistent throughout the year, meaning that there isn’t really a bad time to visit, per se. However, there are a few factors that may impact upon your decision.


January and February are the peak visitation periods, as both the Brazilians and Argentineans are on holiday. During the local summer, the water volume is high, and the sky tends to be bluer. However, the heat, humidity and hotel occupation are at their highest. Easter week also sees a vast increase in local tourism.


Some people prefer visiting the Falls during the rainy season (May and July) due to the high water levels and strong flow. However, the months of September and October may provide the best opportunity to experience iguazu Falls, as the temperature is more moderate, hotel prices are more economical and there are fewer people around.

The best (quickest & easiest) way to get to Iguazu falls is by air. In Argentina, you will need to catch a flight from Buenos Aires’ domestic airport, El Aeroparque Jorge Newbery, to Puerto Iguazu airport. From the airport, you will then need to drive, or take a taxi/shuttle to your accommodation. In Brazil, you will need to fly into Foz do Iguassu airport, from Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, or another major Brazilian city. If you are travelling to Iguazu Falls from Paraguay, you can drive to the falls via the Friendship Bridge.





Friday, June 18, 2021

Vatican



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Vatican City is the smallest country in the world.

Encircled by a 2-mile border with Italy, Vatican City is an independent city-state that covers just over 100 acres, making it one-eighth the size of New York’s Central Park. Vatican City is governed as an absolute monarchy with the pope at its head. The Vatican mints its own euros, prints its own stamps, issues passports and license plates, operates media outlets and has its own flag and anthem. One government function it lacks: taxation. Museum admission fees, stamp and souvenir sales, and contributions generate the Vatican’s revenue.

St. Peter’s Basilica sits atop a city of the dead, including its namesake’s tomb.

A Roman necropolis stood on Vatican Hill in pagan times. When a great fire leveled much of Rome in A.D. 64, Emperor Nero, seeking to shift blame from himself, accused the Christians of starting the blaze. He executed them by burning them at the stake, tearing them apart with wild beasts and crucifying them. Among those crucified was St. Peter—disciple of Jesus Christ, leader of the Apostles and the first bishop of Rome—who was supposedly buried in a shallow grave on Vatican Hill. By the fourth century and official recognition of the Christian religion in Rome, Emperor Constantine began construction of the original basilica atop the ancient burial ground with what was believed to be the tomb of St. Peter at its center. The present basilica, built starting in the 1500s, sits over a maze of catacombs and St. Peter’s suspected grave.

Caligula captured the obelisk that stands in St. Peter’s Square.

Roman Emperor Caligula built a small circus in his mother’s gardens at the base of Vatican Hill where charioteers trained and where Nero is thought to have martyred the Christians. To crown the center of the amphitheater, Caligula had his forces transport from Egypt a pylon that had originally stood in Heliopolis. The obelisk, made of a single piece of red granite weighing more than 350 tons, was erected for an Egyptian pharaoh more than 3,000 years ago. In 1586 it was moved to its present location in St. Peter’s Square, where it does double duty as a giant sundial.

For nearly 60 years in the 1800s and 1900s, popes refused to leave the Vatican.

Popes ruled over a collection of sovereign Papal States throughout central Italy until the country was unified in 1870. The new secular government had seized all the land of the Papal States with the exception of the small patch of the Vatican, and a cold war of sorts then broke out between the church and the Italian government. Popes refused to recognize the authority of the Kingdom of Italy, and the Vatican remained beyond Italian national control. Pope Pius IX proclaimed himself a “prisoner of the Vatican,” and for almost 60 years popes refused to leave the Vatican and submit to the authority of the Italian government. When Italian troops were present in St. Peter’s Square, popes even refused to give blessings or appear from the balcony overlooking the public space.

Benito Mussolini signed Vatican City into existence.

The dispute between the Italian government and the Catholic Church ended in 1929 with the signing of the Lateran Pacts, which allowed the Vatican to exist as its own sovereign state and compensated the church $92 million (more than $1 billion in today’s money) for the Papal States. The Vatican used the payment as seed money to re-grow its coffers. Mussolini, the head of the Italian government, signed the treaty on behalf of King Victor Emmanuel III.

Popes did not live at the Vatican until the 14th century.

Even after the construction of the original St. Peter’s Basilica, popes lived principally at the Lateran Palace across Rome. They even left the city altogether in 1309 when the papal court moved to Avignon, France, after King Philip IV arranged for a French cardinal to be elected pope. Seven popes, all French, ruled from Avignon, and the papacy did not return to Rome until 1377, by which time the Lateran Palace had burned and the Vatican started to be used as a papal residence. Much repair work needed to be done, however, because the Vatican had fallen into such disrepair that wolves dug for bodies in the cemetery and cows even wandered the basilica.

The Swiss Guard was hired as a mercenary force.

The Swiss Guard, recognizable by its armor and colorful Renaissance-era uniforms, has been protecting the pontiff since 1506. That’s when Pope Julius II, following in the footsteps of many European courts of the time, hired one of the Swiss mercenary forces for his personal protection. The Swiss Guard’s role in Vatican City is strictly to protect the safety of the pope. Although the world’s smallest standing army appears to be strictly ceremonial, its soldiers are extensively trained and highly skilled marksmen. And, yes, the force is entirely comprised of Swiss citizens.

At several times during the Vatican’s history, popes escaped through a secret passageway.

In 1277, a half-mile-long elevated covered passageway, the Passetto di Borgo, was constructed to link the Vatican with the fortified Castel Sant’Angelo on the banks of the Tiber River. It served as an escape route for popes, most notably in 1527 when it likely saved the life of Pope Clement VII during the sack of Rome. As the forces of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V rampaged through the city and murdered priests and nuns, the Swiss Guard held back the enemy long enough to allow Clement to safely reach the Castel Sant’Angelo, although 147 of the pope’s forces lost their lives in the battle.

The majority of Vatican City’s 600 citizens live abroad.

As of 2011, the number of people with Vatican citizenship totaled 594. That number included 71 cardinals, 109 members of the Swiss Guard, 51 members of the clergy and one nun inside the Vatican walls. The largest group of citizens, however, was the 307 members of the clergy in diplomatic positions around the world. With Benedict XVI residing as a pope emeritus in the Vatican, the population will increase by one when a new pope is named.


The Vatican Observatory owns a telescope in Arizona.

As Rome expanded, light pollution from the city made it increasingly difficult for astronomers at the Vatican Observatory—located 15 miles from the city at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo—to view the night skies, so in 1981 the observatory opened a second research center in Tucson, Arizona. The Vatican conducts astronomical research with a state-of-the-art telescope that sits atop Mount Graham in southeast Arizona

Friday, June 4, 2021

CuBA


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Cuba, officially the Republic of Cuba, is a country comprising the island of Cuba, as well as Isla de la Juventud and several minor archipelagos. Cuba is located where the northern Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and Atlantic Ocean meet. 

Visiting Cuba is a highlight-packed sensory overload, especially if you take the time to understand the past political strife that has shaped a nation that stands on the cusp of a social and economic revolution.

That includes an increasing number of accommodation options opening up – even Airbnb has arrived, and a clued-in host can give you a great head-start with some key tips to get the most out of your stay.

HABLO A LITTLE ESPANOL


Cubans have had little access to the outside world for the past 50 years and outside the main tourist areas, Spanish is almost exclusively spoken. If your Spanish is non-existent, grab a phrase book and practise a few key phrases on the long flight over. Being able to hail a taxi and negotiate the destination and fare are vital to getting around, and being able to order food and drink is handy. If all else fails, "lo siento, hablo no Espanol" at least says you're sorry you don't understand what someone is saying to you.

Visiting Cuba is a highlight-packed sensory overload, especially if you take the time to understand the past political strife that has shaped a nation that stands on the cusp of a social and economic revolution.

That includes an increasing number of accommodation options opening up – even Airbnb has arrived, and a clued-in host can give you a great head-start with some key tips to get the most out of your stay.

 If you do get into conversations with a local, take the opportunity to find out about their life and experiences.

If you do get into conversations with a local, take the opportunity to find out about their life and experiences before you go.


 

Next, you need to organise finance. Many credit cards – especially those issued by banks with American links – won't work in Cuba, and ATM access shouldn't be assumed, either. Check with your bank to see what might work for you. If all else fails there's cash, which of course isn't as safe to carry in large amounts but is hugely convenient on the street


HABLO  a little Espanol


Cubans have had little access to the outside world for the past 50 years and outside the main tourist areas, Spanish is almost exclusively spoken. If your Spanish is non-existent, grab a phrase book and practise a few key phrases on the long flight over. Being able to hail a taxi and negotiate the destination and fare are vital to getting around, and being able to order food and drink is handy. If all else fails,  no Espanol" at least says you're sorry you don't understand what someone is saying to you.

Cuba has a fascinating history of instability and revolution, and if you're staying in an Airbnb property you can gain much more insight from your host if you can converse knowledgeably about the factors that have led to the austere life they live today. 


If you do get into conversations with a local, take the opportunity to find out about their life and experiences under the strict socialist regime. Interaction and immersion with the friendly and proud locals will add a deeper layer to your stay.


 Museo de la Revolucion Havana, Cuba.

Museo de la  Havana, Cuba. 

Get some protection

Like many South American and carribean  destination, Cuba has a mosquito problem. virus has been featured prominently in the news, but that's only a big problem if you're pregnant or planning to be; for everyone else, a dose of is a mild inconvenience. Of greater concern, my Airbnb host Gustavo warns, is the risk of dengue fever, which can be debilitating. To be safe, source an insect repellent with a high percentage of (otherwise known as  de Li meta – slathering it on a couple of times daily is the most effective way to ward off the nasties. You'll also need a decent 50+ sunscreen for Cuba's powerful sun, which you should apply before the insect repellent so it's better absorbed into your skin.

them to a bar, cafe, museum or nightclub, where they'll receive a spotter's fee. Others may offer to be your guide and happily chat with you for hours in disarmingly friendly fashion – but at the end, there's always an outstretched hand. 


Approach these interactions expecting to pay for a slice of their time and local knowledge, which is sometimes well worth it. If you're on a tight budget, be up front that you have no money to give. Even though you didn't ask to be accosted, a refusal to cough up after assistance has been rendered could cause confrontation.

Get out of the city


Cuba is much more than just Havana, although you can easily spend a week wandering the old town, poking around Vedado, and taking in the neighbouring coastal settlements. If you're keen to see it all, consider side trips to Trinidad – a UNESCO world heritage site with beautiful architecture and sensational beaches – or Santiago de Cuba, at the opposite end of the island. The latter has history in spades and offers a more genuine Cuban experience than tourist-focused Havana. Closer to Havana, you can take a 20-minute taxi ride to out to Cojimar, the setting for the Ernest Hemingway novel The Old Man and the Sea and the place where Hemingway kept his own boat.


Friday, May 7, 2021

Taipei


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Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, is a modern metropolis with Japanese colonial lanes, busy shopping streets and contemporary buildings. The skyline is crowned by the 509m-tall, bamboo-shaped Taipei 101 skyscraper, with upscale shops at the base and a rapid elevator to an observatory near the top. Taipei is also known for its lively street-food scene and many night markets, including expansive Shilin market. 

In reality, the PRC rules only Mainland China and has no control of but claims Taiwan as part of its territory under its "One China Principle". The ROC, which only rules the Taiwan Area (composed of Taiwan and its nearby minor islands), became known as "Taiwan" after its largest island, (an instance of pars pro toto).The bright lights of the city of Taipei were not always shining quite so bright.

Originally an enormous lake bordered by mountains, the Taipei basin is where the city’s history begins.

The first residents were members of an aboriginal Ketagalan Tribe. These early birds were of Malay-Polynesian descent but retreated into the mountains when the Dutch and the Spanish settled in.

A Dutch navigator on a Portuguese ship had seen the island and named it ‘Ilha Formosa’ meaning ‘Beautiful Island’. Little did he know that this name would stick for around 400 years.

The Dutch, after taking over the Spanish territory, constructed a fortress and proceeded to call the land ‘Tayouan’ (meaning ‘Terrace Bay’) which eventually progressed to ‘Taiwan’.

The Dutch hired groups of Chinese workers who ultimately decided to stay put. The newcomers developed relationships with the aboriginal tribes and as a result the first officially Taiwanese people were born.

In the early 1660s, Koxinga (Zheng Cheng-Gong), a Chinese pirate, defeated the Dutch citizens and claimed Taiwan. Taipei officially became part of the Tianxing County in China.

The Qing Dynasty marked Taiwan as part of their territory in 1683, and the island thrived politically and economically.

In 1884 Taipei officially became a city, and in 1887 it turned into a province. In the late 1890s, when Japan occupied the island, they improved the infrastructure and tore down the city wall that had originally been built by the Qing Dynasty.

The Japanese were expelled in 1945 and a new administration was founded, setting the groundwork for Taiwan’s independence five years later.

Taiwan soon became known as a republic, or more formally as the ROC: Republic of China.


Many citizens of Taiwan consider the island independent of China and wish to be recognised as a separate country. Tension between Taiwan and China continues to exist, although in 2010, a historic trade pact signalled a breakthrough in relations.



Saturday, April 24, 2021

Korea


 

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On the go peach blossom country

The Korean peninsula is a tantalizingly unexplored slice of East Asia – a pine-clad land of mountains, misty archipelagos and rice paddies of emerald green, studded with urban pockets of incomparable joie de vivre. While its troubled history has made Korea’s very existence nothing short of miraculous, amazingly its traditions and customs have largely survived intact – and for visitors, this highly distinctive culture is an absolute joy to dive into.Continue reading to find out more separate ways in 1953 after the catastrophic Korean War – essentially a civil war, but one largely brought about by external forces, which left millions dead and flattened almost the whole peninsula – the two Koreas are now separated by the spiky twin frontiers of the Demilitarized Zone. North Korea has armed itself to the teeth since 1953, stagnated in its pursuit of a local brand of Communism and become one of the least accessible countries in the world. Unbelievably, many foreigners seem to expect something similar of South Korea, which shows just how well kept a secret this fascinating place really is: beyond the glittering city of Seoul, gimchi, dog meat and taekwondo, little is known about the country in the outside world (and in actual fact, one of those four has largely gone the way of the dodo anyway).

After the war, the South gradually embraced democracy and has since gone on to become a powerful and dynamic economy. Its cities, bursting with places to visit, are a pulsating feast of eye-searing neon, feverish activity and round-the-clock business. Here you can shop till you drop at markets that never close, feast on eye-wateringly spicy food, get giddy on a bottle or two of soju, then sweat out the day’s exertions at a night-time sauna. However, set foot outside the urban centres and your mere presence will cause quite a stir – in the remote rural areas life continues much as it did before the “Economic Miracle” of the 1970s, and pockets of islands exist where no foreigner has ever set foot.

And for all its newfound prosperity, the South remains a land steeped in tradition. Before being abruptly choked off by the Japanese occupation in 1910, an unbroken line of more than one hundred kings existed for almost two thousand years – their grassy burial mounds have yielded thousands of golden relics – and even the capital, Seoul, has a number of palaces dating back to the fourteenth century. The wooden hanok housing of decades gone by may have largely given way to rows of apartment blocks, but these traditional dwellings can still be found in places, and you’ll never be more than a walk away from an immaculately painted Buddhist temple. Meanwhile, Confucian-style formal ceremonies continue to play an important part in local life, and some mountains still even host shamanistic rituals.

As for the Korean people themselves, they are a real delight: fiercely proud, and with a character almost as spicy as their food, they’re markedly eager to please foreigners who come to live or holiday in their country. Within hours of arriving, you may well find yourself with new friends in tow, racing up a mountainside, lunching over a delicious barbequed galbi, throwing back makkeolli until dawn, or singing the night away at a noraebang. Few travellers leave without tales of the kindness of Korean strangers, and all of them wonder why the country isn’t a more popular stop on the international travel circuit.

Where to go in South Korea

Korea is still something of an unknown territory, and more than half of all its visitors get no further than Seoul. One of the largest and most technically advanced cities in the world, the capital regularly confounds expectations by proving itself steeped in history. Here, fourteenth-century palaces, imperial gardens, teeming markets and secluded tearooms continue to exude charm among a maze of skyscrapers and shopping malls. From Seoul, anywhere in the country is reachable within a day, but the best day-trip by far is to the DMZ, the strip of land that separates the two Koreas from coast to coast.






Saturday, April 10, 2021

CHILE



 Chile is a long, narrow country stretching along South America's western edge, with more than 6,000km of Pacific Ocean coastline. Santiago, its capital, sits in a valley surrounded by the Andes and Chilean Coast Range mountains. The city's palm-lined Plaza de Armas contains the neoclassical cathedral and the National History Museum. The massive Parque Metropolitano offers swimming pools, a botanical garden and zoo.


Nestled deep in the Patagonian Andes, you can find the Cuevas de Mármol (Marble Caves) on a peninsula of solid marble.  You can find these fascinating formations on the outskirts of Lake General Carrera along the Chile/Argentina border.  The caves are accessible by boat.  More than 6,000 years ago,  the waves washed up against the calcium carbonate formations creating the caves. While the caves appear to be covered in smooth, swirling shadows of blue, it’s actually a reflection of the lake’s indigo waters. The intensity and hue of the colour changes regularly, depending on water levels and time of year.

Formation of the Caves

The water levels have had a major impact on the formation of the caves.  With the high water levels, some 6,000 years ago, the marble dissolved faster at the water surface. Small amounts of seeping water came through the cracks in the marble enlarging the fractures.  The cracks then became big enough to  allow the waves in and wash away the dissolved material. The water also smoothed and shaped the marble. Over the years, the process created the cave and the incredible formations inside it.

The process of water erosion caused by the waves continuously splashing against the walls of the marble; proved to be a fairly fast geological process.

 The Blue Water

The water within the General Carrera Lake comes from melting glaciers in the Patagonian Andes. The melted ice leaves minute particles in the water.  These particles refract the blue part of sunlight which creates the distinct blue colour of the lake.

Caverns and Tunnels

Located near the Chile-Argentinean border, along the azure waters of Lake General Carrera; the caves feature three main caverns: the Chapel (La Capilla), the Cathedral (El Catedral), and the Cave (La Cueva). You can explore the caves with a small boat or kayak.  It is possible to do this trip pretty much all year round, unless the lake’s waters are really rough.

The Marble Cathedral (Catedral de Mármol) located Northeast of Chile at the peninsula is the largest of the three. Closer to the northern coast, the Marble Chapel (Capilla de Mármol) got its name because of the church-like pillars formed in the monoliths.  If the water levels are low enough,  you can actually take a walk under the island, through a series of tunnels.

If the marble caves are getting you excited for a unique Chilean getaway


GREECE



 Greece is a country in southeastern Europe with thousands of islands throughout the Aegean and Ionian seas. Influential in ancient times, it's often called the cradle of Western civilization. Athens, its capital, retains landmarks including the 5th-century B.C. Acropolis citadel with the Parthenon temple.Greece is also known for its beaches, from the black sands of Santorini to the party resorts of Mykonos

SEYCHELLES BEACH 
This is one of Ikaria's most intriguing and beautiful beaches, and closely guarded by the villagers of the nearby village of Mangganitis who would prefer to keep it their secret and for good reason. The pebble-rock beach is located within a picturesque and intimate cove setting. There are interesting rock formations all around and the color of the crystal clear water is unmatched. A small "private" cove beach adjacent to the main beach features a large cave. Seychelles Beach is located approximately 25 kilometers west of Agios Kirikos, just after the tunnel that leads further on into the village of Manganitis. The access to the beach is via a path which starts on the main road and descends along a river bed. The path is of medium difficulty and steep towards the end. Wear sturdy shoes. It is also sometimes possible to take a water taxi from Mangganitis' fishing port and there are organized day trips to Seychelles in the summer from Armenistis and Agios Kirikos. A cafe/bar is located a short walk from the beach in the fishing port of Manganitis.



Saturday, March 20, 2021

Kazakhstan

 


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Kazakhstan, a Central Asian country and former Soviet republic, extends from the Caspian Sea in the west to the Altai Mountains at its eastern border with China and Russia. Its largest metropolis, Almaty, is a long-standing trading hub whose landmarks include Ascension Cathedral, a tsarist-era Russian Orthodox church, and the Central State Museum of Kazakhstan, displaying thousands of Kazakh artifacts

world’s ninth-biggest country is the most economically advanced of the ‘stans’, thanks to its abundant reserves of oil and most other valuable minerals. This means generally better standards of accommodation, restaurants and transport than elsewhere in Central Asia. The biggest city, Almaty, is almost reminiscent of Europe with its leafy avenues, chic ALZhiR Museum-Memorial Complex, glossy shopping centres and hedonistic nightlife. The capital Nur-Sultan, on the windswept northern steppe, has been transformed into a 21st-century showpiece with a profusion of bold futuristic architecture. But it's beyond the cities that you'll find the greatest travel adventures, whether hiking in the high mountains and green valleys of the Tian Shan, searching for wildlife on the lake-dotted steppe, enjoying homespun hospitality in village guesthouses, or jolting across the western deserts to remote underground mosques.


Sunday, January 17, 2021

Singapore


 


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Singapore, city-state located at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, about 85 miles (137 kilometres) north of the Equator. It consists of the diamond-shaped Singapore Island and some 60 small islets; the main island occupies all but about 18 square miles of this combined area.

Though physically small, Singapore is an economic giant. It has been Southeast Asia's most modern city for over a century. The city blends Malay, Chinese, Arab, Indian and English cultures and religions. Its unique ethnic tapestry affords visitors a wide array of sightseeing and culinary opportunities from which to choose. A full calendar of traditional festivals and holidays celebrated throughout the year adds to its cultural appeal. In addition, Singapore offers luxury hotels, delectable cuisine and great shopping! The island nation of the Republic of Singapore lies one degree north of the Equator in Southern Asia. The country includes the island of Singapore and 58 or so smaller islands. Because of its efficient and determined government, Singapore has become a flourishing country that excels in trade and tourism and is a model to developing nations. The capital city, also called Singapore, covers about a third of the area of the main island.

Located at the tip of the Malay Peninsula, Singapore's tropical climate welcomes both leisure and business travelers year round. The island republic's excellent infrastructure enables visitors to enjoy its many sites and attractions in a safe, clean and green environment. Award winning Changi Airport provides airlinks to major cities around the world. The train and subway systems are clean, fast and efficient. In addition, its state-of-the-art cruise terminal has established Singapore as one of the premier cruising centers of South East Asia and an exciting port of call on any Asian cruise itinerary.

In the city, there is no need for a car. Public transportation is excellent and walking is a good way to explore the city . All major attractions are also accessible by tour bus. Since the city is only 60 miles (100k) from the equator, the tropical temperatures do not vary much. Rainfall is fairly evenly distributed through the year. No matter when you choose to visit, warm weather will be abundantly available. The visitor is struck immediately by Singapore's abundance of parks, nature reserves, and lush, tropical greenery.

Singapore's progress over the past three decades has been remarkable, yet the island has not been overwhelmed by development. Visitors will discover a wealth of historical treasures from the past, in the beauty of older buildings, values and traditions that have survived in the face of profound social and geographical change.

Lacking any noteworthy natural resources, Singapore's early prosperity was based on a vigorous free trade policy, put in place in 1819 when Sir Stamford Raffles first established it as a British trading post. Later, mass industrialization bolstered the economy, and today the state boasts the world's second busiest port after Rotterdam, minimal unemployment, and a super efficient infrastructure. Almost the entire population lives in upscale new apartments, and the average per capita income is over US$12,000. Singapore is a clean, safe place to visit, its amenities are second to none and its public places are smoke-free and hygienic.

Forming the core of downtown Singapore is the Colonial District. Each surrounding enclave has its own distinct flavor, from the aromatic spice stores of Little India, to the tumbledown backstreets of Chinatown, where it is still possible to find calligraphers and fortune tellers, or the Arab Quarter, whose cluttered stores sell fine cloths and silks.

North of the city, are two nature preserves, Bukit Timah and the Central Catchment Area, along with the splendid Singapore Zoological Gardens. The east coast features good seafood restaurants set on long stretches of sandy beach. In addition there are over fifty islands and islets within Singaporean waters, all of which can be reached with varying degrees of ease. Day trips are popular to Sentosa, the island amusement arcade which is linked to the south coast by a short causeway and cable car. Music, theater, nightlife: all are abundant in this remarkable city. Singapore used to be considered a "stop over" on the way to larger Asian cities. This is no longer true! Visitors seek out Singapore for business and finance and also for a fascinating and satisfying vacation for the whole family.

Singapore is both an island and a country, but perhaps its best description is that of city-state. Like the great city-states of the past, it offers civilization and order in the highest degree. Its combination of Western-style development and Eastern-style calm seems to present the best of both hemispheres: It's a modern metropolis where you feel safe walking the streets, and it's an Asian business center that's a model of efficiency. Singapore is also a multicultural city, and close to one-quarter of its population are expatriates or foreign workers from all over the world. Known for its desire to become the technology hub of Asia, Singapore is the most wired country in the region.

Singapore shares another trait with historical city-states: Its authorities strongly believe that they can safeguard the status quo with regulations against almost anything and everything that - in their view - could possibly upset the sense of tranquility. In reality, visitors will find the place is not as restrictive as the long lists of hefty fines for such things as littering and jaywalking suggest. Some visitors to Singapore leave singing the praises of a society that "works," while others feel the government's near-compulsive fixation on cleanliness and order makes Singapore sterile in every sense of the word.


Saturday, December 26, 2020

Portugal Benagil cave

Turkey away in the folds of southern Portugal’s rugged coastline lies one of the most beautiful natural cathedrals on the planet. Carved by the pounding waves that sweep in from the vast Atlantic Ocean, the coastal area near Benagil is home to a series of intricate caves, sea stacks and hidden beaches.

Some of the caves are almost completely dark and submerged, while others are too small to squeeze inside – but the most famous is huge, airy and lit by an ever-changing palette of colours that come from the sky, the ocean, the sun and the rocks. The Benagil Sea Cave, as it’s most commonly known, is just east of the small town of Benagil on the Algarve. With its own ‘indoor’ beach, two sea-facing holes and a further circular skylight eroded through its ceiling, it’s a favourite with photographers and tours – see our tips below on avoiding the crowds.

Swim and boat tour

Swim from Benagil Beach you can swim approximates 200 metres to the Benagil Cave.  You must be a strong swimmer to reach the cave.  The tides and currents change quickly here and I recommend a life jacket or lido to make it there. 

One of the best ways to see the most beautiful Algarve sea caves, including the Benagil Cave, is to take a boat tour.