Daily Archives: 24.02.2014

Pompeii – The Ruins Of Time



Pompeii – The Ruins Of Time

They say that only fools go into combat with nature. One of the most famous tourist attractions in Italy is the ruins of Pompeii- a major commercial capital from days gone by destroyed and preserved by the wrath of Mt. Vesuvius. It is one of those places which make you reflect on the brevity of life and the might of nature while transporting you to a different world. Pompeii is presently one of the most magical outdoor museums in the world. Located in the Italian region of Campania, Pompeii was buried in layers of pumice and burnt ash in the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD.

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Pompeii is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Researchers believe that by the time of its destruction the town of Pompeii was home to over 20,000 occupants and had a sophisticated water system, an amphitheater and even a port. The story of the Roman Emperor Nero playing on his harp even when Pompeii was being destroyed is well known. The story of Nero and his harp is still cited to describe the indifference of people in the face of an imminent crisis. As a site, Pompeii was lost to our knowledge for about fifteen decades before its rediscovery in 1599. A hundred and Fifty years later a Spanish Engineer led to the broader rediscovery of the town where history had literally been preserved under layers of pumice and ash. Since the objects and artifacts have been preserved for thousands of years due to the lack of air and moisture, the ruins of Pompeii provided us incredible insight into the lifestyle of the contemporary Romans.

Early History

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The root for the name ‘Pompeii’ is probably the word ‘Pompe’ which means ‘five’. This suggests that the town Pompeii was probably founded by five men or as a congregation of five hamlets or households. Situated about 8 km away from the Vesuvius, the ancient town of Pompeii was an important seat of power in the region of Campania. Though the ruins today stand quite inland, in olden days the city was situated closer to the coast.

Archaeologists suggest from the study of layers in the ruins of the city that it had been witness to many a seismic catastrophes, landslides and torrential rainfalls before the fated eruption of the Vesuvius. Minor quakes were frequent in the area and seventeen years before the Vesuvius erupted, an earthquake had caused considerable damage to the town of Pompeii as well as many adjoining towns. The quake affected Pompeii greatly and rebuilding was under progress even after seventeen years. The rediscovery of the lost Pompeii throws quite a number of surprises, notable among them being the erotic Pompeian style. The artwork and frescoes discovered in Pompeii depict the phallus as an oft used good luck charm. Some notable architectural signatures that survive today from ancient Pompeii are the Temple of Apollo and the Villa of Mysteries.

Tourism Today

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Pompeii being a getaway to a different world has become a major crowd puller today. Despite the fact that less than one third of the buildings being open today for public viewing today, millions of tourists throng to explore the site every year. Pompeii is a part of the Vesuvius National Park. Though for nearly two thousand years, the town of Pompeii had been conserved by natural elements, once excavated, it has become susceptible to both natural an man-made forces of decay and deterioration. In 2010 the 2,000-year-old Schola Armatorum (House of the Gladiators)  collapsed bringing into light the dire state of Pompeii’s priceless monuments.

One of the most interesting thing to see in Pompeii are the plaster casts of its inhabitants. When the layers of ash were being excavated, the void left by decayed human bodies were filled with plaster, leaving behind casts of the ghosts of Pompeii. When in Pompeii, the charm and allure of history is best felt in places like the Villa of Mysteries, the House of the Tragic Poet, House of the Vetti, The Temple of Apollo, The House of Faun etc.

Villa of the Mysteries

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The most amazing part about the Villa of the Mysteries is that despite a volcanic eruption, the building suffered from minor damages, and its magical frescoes survive intact almost two thousand years later. The meaning of the frescoes have been hotly debated on. Some are of the opinion that they depict a young woman being initiated into the cult of Dinosyus, some say that they depict a girl undergoing nuptial rites.

The villa was actually located outside the town, separated by the city walls and funerary monuments; and the ownership is ambiguous.

House of the Tragic Poet

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The House of the Tragic Poet is a small building in Pompeii which has been of much interest to scholars throughout the ages due to the wealth of Greek mythological frescoes strewn around the house. The house speaks of excellent taste which does not sit in harmony with the size of the house. The juxtaposition of the beautiful images with the mystery of Pompeii make this place hauntingly magical and a place to cherish.

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Weathering, inconsiderate excavation, lack of adequate restoration, tourism, vandalism, theft, exposure to natural elements- the list of factors contributing to Pompeii’s decay is endless. Without proper restoration, Pompeii will be lost, once again.

Walk The High Ledge – The Skydeck, Chicago



Walk The High Ledge – The Skydeck, Chicago

Have you always wanted to be on top of the world? ; Look at all there is to look at, like you were the one true creator of all? ; Or just love the thrill of heights? , if so the case, then The Windy City is where you should be heading , in your next break.

Chicago, the third most populated city of US of A, also called ‘The second City’ is the place for ice skating in Millennium Park, wandering through Lincoln Park Zoo, playing at Navy Pier, shopping along the Magnificent Mile; but one activity which knows no bounds of weather or seasons and gives the adrenaline rush like no other, is The Skydeck of The Willis Tower (previously Sears Tower).

The Skydeck is as close to being Spiderman as one can get (without being bitten by a radioactive spider); on a windy day people on the deck, peering down at the world of toy cars and miniature humans, can actually feel the building sway.

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The Skydeck is the pride of the Willis Tower, which itself is the pride of United States being the tallest building and an architectural wonder of the Western Hemisphere. The deck, one of the most famous tourist attractions of Chicago is located on the 103rd floor, putting people at a height of 1350 feet or 410m up in the air. It was first opened as early as 1974. The bigger, original deck has a twin on the 99th floor which is used in case the larger deck is not open or under maintenance.

The Skydeck itself attracts an enormous number of 1.5 million tourists every year. Though not for the weak hearted or people who can relate to James Stewart’s character in Vertigo; on a clear day people have a visibility of 50 miles in all directions, which allows them to see four states at once, not on a map or Google Earth but in reality, with their own eyes, for many this is a lifetime experience and cherish able memory. People can see far over Lake Michigan to Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin on clear days, which are not very rare.

The building is equipped with state-of-the art infrastructure and the elevators installed compete with the best in the world. The elevators take passengers up to the destination in 60 seconds which inevitably also enables them to feel the quick change in pressure due to the sudden rise in altitude. The speed of 1,600 feet per minute makes the elevators amongst the fastest in the world.

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Standing at the Skydeck one can observe that the Wills Tower is the king of the skyline with Skydeck being its crown jewel, the only competition coming from the observation floor of The John Hancock Centre about a one and a half miles away, which  is only the second best as it is a whole 100 m lower than the Skydeck. The tourist entrance is located on the Jackson Boulevard on the south side of the building.

The Skydeck has a website of its own where you can not only know interesting facts about the building and the ledge but can also plan your trip in advance. The builders quote the inspiration behind The Ledge, which is literally a ledge with transparent flooring, to be “from hundreds of forehead prints visitors left behind on Skydeck windows every week.”

The management of the Skydeck goes to lengths to make it tourist friendly as they provide one with multiple options to save money by collaborating with different tourist attractions around the city.

For instance the Chicago Citypass lets one visit the city’s top 5 attractions in 9 days and still save 44 %.

One can pay for the trip via any of the multiple categories of payment packages, all of which have different terms and amounts defined according to varying needs of people. Tickets under Basic-Admission cost around $ 19.00 for adults and $ 12.00 for children below 11 years. Then there is the Fastpass admission which is provided for people in a hurry, those who want to give the interactive exhibits a miss and go straight to the main attraction. There are also other tourist friendly,  group packages available for visiting.

For the ones, who want a little more than just a view form 103rd floor, there is the option of having breakfast in the morning, at the height of 1,300 hundred feet or pizza on the ledge in the evening.

The Skydeck is completely user friendly and very accessible; providing space for scooters and wheel-chairs, of which some wheel-chairs are complimentary. What makes it really stand out is the fact The Ledge itself is accessible by a wheel-chair. Licensed guide dogs are also permitted to accompany their masters.

The Skydeck celebrates the city’s rich history via amazing electronic visuals and presentations which is made even better by the theatre presentation called Reaching for the Sky which narrates the story of this building and city’s others’.

As a constant endeavour to better what they already have, the Skydeck added another unique feather to their cap in 2009 in the form of retractable balconies which let people walk in air, as they are made of completely transparent fibre glass and extend over 4 feet from the building. The small compartments can bear weights up to 4 metric tons give people a never-felt-before rush as they hang in air, 1300 feet over the Wacker Drive.

Calling The Skydeck just an exhilarating experience would be an understatement; it is not just about feeling the thrill and loving the beauty but it also makes one think about the true scale of things around us, a perspective which is not possible in our day to day life.

Colorful and Spicy : The Mexican Cuisine



Colorful and Spicy : The Mexican Cuisine

Mexican Cuisine, which also figures among UNESCO’s list of World’s Intangible Cultural Heritage, is famous worldwide among food lovers, owing to its colorful and spicy nature. This cuisine incorporates within its recipes and techniques the native ways as well as the Spanish influences dating back to Mexico’s colonization during the 16th century. Local terrains, various ingredients available according to the location, the fusion of American and European cooking procedures all add distinctive features and flavors to the Mexican Cuisine.

Mexican Food

The basic foods used throughout Mexico include Beans, Corn and Chilli Peppers. These along with the ingredients incorporated from the European influences, (mainly Spanish, also German and French) make Mexican Cuisine a tasteful culinary delight.

Chillis

Mexican Cuisine has an extremely rich history dating back to the pre Hispanic period. Chilli Peppers have been a significant constituent in Mexican foods since 7000 BCE. Corn has also been an unavoidable ingredient in Mexican kitchens. The native Mesoamerican techniques and dishes have not lost their presence even today. Even after the incorporation of fast food culture, and the haute-cuisine, the Mexican way of cooking is incorporated alongside. The Spanish Conquest also brought about various European influences, most clear of them includes the addition of such ingredients as meat, cheese, and other dairy products. Herbs, tropical fruits are some other ingredients which were included among the Mexican recipes as a result of the adoption of certain ways of the colonial rulers. French influence on the Mexican cuisine is very easily seen in the bakeries, mostly through the various different sorts of breads that are available there. Mexican food offers many mouthwatering delicacies for food lovers, besides which it is also a significant element of Mexico’s social and cultural history.

Ingredients

Corn, beans and chilli peppers are three ingredients which are generally found in all Mexican dishes. Corn is used in different dishes in different ways. Chilli peppers too are the most common feature of Mexican cuisine and lend it its world renowned spicy nature. They are also used for flavoring purposes. There are many ingredients which are unique to the Mexican food processes. Huauzontle, criollo avocadoes, for instance are some of the ingredients, others are obtained from edible flowers, and these add a distinctive taste to the Mexican food.

Mole

Many varied fruits are used in Mexican Cuisines including papaya, pineapple, pear, mangoes, zapote, and guava to name a few. As is evident tropical fruits are more popular, other common ingredients include tomatoes, vanilla, chocolate and cocoa. Courtesy the European influence, Mexican dishes also make use of many herbs such cilantro, thyme, laurel, parsley among others. Cheese has become a popular ingredient, and various kinds of cheese are produced in different parts of Mexico. Dairy products were introduced to the people of Mexico mostly due to the Spanish colonization, so was meat. Beef, Chicken, Turkey, Sea food are all available in various mouth watering Mexican dishes.

Tacos

The Mexican meal constitutes of breakfast, comida or the main meal, and the evening meal. Breakfast is an elaborate affair, and consists of heavy dishes. Dishes most commonly served during the breakfast include tacos, meat, eggs, and enchiladas. Enchiladas are a famous Mexican dish, it includes meat or cheese wrapped in a tortilla, and usually served with chilli sauce. Tortillas are a common feature of Mexican cuisine; they are flat and thin pancakes that can have different mouth watering fillings that can include rice, cream, seafood, cheese or simply chilli peppers. Drinks with the breakfast include coffee or juice; it is mostly accompanied with white bread. The evening meal consists of chocolate or other drinks accompanied by sweet breads. The dinner, locally called the Comida opens with soup or dry soup. Onions and garlic are used to flavor rice or in some instances pasta and this makes up the dry soup. The main course of the main meal includes meat in sauce.

Tortilla, used in different Recipes

Tortillas and fruit juices are usually served along with the meat. There are many Mexican dishes that are specific to various festivals; the most significant among these is Mole. Served on general festivals like Christmas and Easter, Mole is also a food served during family functions like birthdays and weddings. Mole is a flavorful sauce, the main ingredients include chocolate and chilli peppers giving it its spicy taste. It is a very famous Mexican sauce.

Mexican Beverages

Various drinks are specific to Mexico, such as atole, tepache and aguas frescas. Tequila too is a Mexican spirit (made of agave). Corn in various forms is the base of many a Mexican beverages. Fruits, chocolate, sugar, water, rice and flowers are some other ingredients that are commonly used. Mexican street food adds many more flavors. Common street foods include tacos, tortas, alambres, and tamales among others.

Tamales

Corn and Chilli peppers are two distinctive components of Mexican food. Different kinds of chilli peppers are used in different food preparations. Mexican sauces which are made using various chilli peppers are used with almost all dishes that are served here. Many times the fruits and sweet dishes too have a smattering of chilli peppers. The drinks too contain corn as a major ingredient. Tortilla the most common form of eating corns is made using the dough that is prepared after treating dried corn with lime.

Enchiladas

Some of the most common and popular Mexican dishes include tortilla, enchiladas, tacos, torta, tamales, fajita, nachos among others. Torta includes rolls made of French breads and stuffed with varied things like cream to hot chilli pepper. Tamale has fillings that can include meat or vegetables, and sometimes fruits or cheese too. The stuffing is filled within the cover made using the dough prepared of corns. Tacos have the fillings of spicy beans and meat within a tortilla. Taco chips are consumed as snacks.

The street vendors, juice stands and various restaurants across Mexico provide easy access to all kinds of dishes and drinks. The flavors, colors and the spicy taste of Mexican Cuisine leave all food lovers with a culinary experience and a taste to relish.

Live in the Leaning Tower: Bella Sky Comwell, Copenhagen



Live in the Leaning Tower: Bella Sky Comwell, Copenhagen

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If you are looking for a high class luxurious place to stay with a great atmosphere and really good service, then Bella Sky Comwell Hotel is surely going to top the options list. It is situated in Copenhagen, capital of Denmark, A new architectural landmark on the pancake-flat landscape between Copenhagen city centre and the airport, the twin, twisting towers of Bella Sky Comwell lean at 15 degrees, three times the angle of the tower at Pisa. On 16 May 2011, Bella Center opened the doors to its biggest commercial venture ever which was the Bella Sky Comwell design hotel. It was designed by a renowned architectural firm 3XN, comprises two impressive 76.5 meter towers and offers direct access to Bella Center. It is the largest hotel in Scandinavia and its unique architecture makes it the most aesthetically attractive. The hotel is clean, spacious and extremely modern. The hotel is just a ten minutes taxi drive from Copenhagen airport. A regional train also runs from the airport to Orestad Station and there is Metro connection with one change of trains.

 

Structure and architecture

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hotel

 

The hotel consists two towers leaning apart from each other. The tilt of the towers provides a panoramic view that change around the building. It is the biggest design hotel in Scandinavia, having 812 rooms, 30 conference rooms, 3 restaurants, 2 bars and spa and wellness centre. The interior is quite exquisite and based on an innovation of the classic hotel. The wireless internet is free and always available throughout the hotel. That surely is a good news. The parking is also available on the hotel premises.

 

Meetings and events

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Having its own metro station and its biggest shopping centre, it has a lot of crowd coming over and it is favorite place for meetings, conferences and events. If you are an event organizer, you can be sure of the best possible conditions to achieve excellent results. It has 28 meeting rooms with a total area of 1250 square metres, 4 VIP rooms, 1 ballroom, 6 conference rooms for 60-80 persons and as a bonus, an option of using both Bella Sky Comwell Hotel and Bella Center for the same event.

 

Rooms

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There are 812 rooms which are unique in their texture and furniture setting along with beautiful views outside. All rooms have air conditioning, free wireless internet, radio and TV system with any video or movie on demand, mini bar, safety box and 24 hour room service. What luxury more than this a hotel is expected to offer. The interesting fact is that Bella Sky Comwell is a non-smoking hotel and you can not smoke in any of the rooms. However Allergy friendly rooms are available by request. There are all types of rooms to choose from medium to XXL which are available in as per requirement.

 

The Bella Donna Floor

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There is a unique thing this hotel has, the Bella Donna Floor. It is the 17th floor of the Tower 2 which has been specially designed just for women. All the rooms on this floor are furnished as per needs of the hotel’s female guests. There are 20 women’s rooms with modern design and the furniture has queen size beds, bang and flat screen LED TVs, Vitra Lounge chairs with marble bedside tables. This area of the hotel is quite a security area as only female guest with key cards and hotel staff is allowed to enter it. Why should men have all the fun?

 

Food

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Bella Sky Comwell guests can feast on mouth watering “a la carte” dishes ate the restaurant. There is Sky Bar offers delicious seafood dishes and a selection of cocktails and champagnes. The prices of the drinks may seem expensive but it is worth it seeing the comfort and high quality service. It is at 23rd floor and offers fantastic views of Copenhagen’s skyline and Sweden can be seen in the distance to the east. There is also the facility of reserving the Sky Bar for private events. Delicious brunches are served, by experienced cooks, which include the executive chef’s delicious brunch, coffee and juice. BM restaurant is also there on 1st floor which can be used to service the conference guests and to host dinners and other events.

 

SPA

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Everybody needs a break from hectic schedules or daily busy life. Then Spa and fitness centre in Bella Sky Comwell Hotel is the right place to give you a much needed break. It is not open for public so only the guests at the hotel can enjoy the spa, cold and warm baths, steam bath, power showers and much more. Many spa offers are available so that you can make the most of it like Day spa in which free access is offered to the Aqua Spa with Rain sky shower, Relax Sauna, hot relaxing seats. You can book some other treatments like Hot Stone Massage, Aroma Massage and much more. Some other spa offers are Time for Spa, Spa Delight, Japanese Samurai-Gus. Every offer includes its own unique treatment.

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Truly, Bella Sky Comwell Hotel is the next generation luxury hotel while maintaining the traditional culture and architecture. An interesting fact is that it is one of the most frequently booked hotels of the world.

 

Travel the Ferry: Ajanta Caves, Maharashtra India



Travel the Ferry: Ajanta Caves, Maharashtra India

Travel the ferry: Ajanta caves, Maharashtra

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India’s two most outstanding caves Ajanta and ellora among  which one present the life of Buddha and the other stands as a historical monument  of hinduism and jainism. the murals and sculpture of these two famous world heritage sites just unbelievable and incredible.

The Ajanta caves situated at a distance of about 55 km from jalgaon and 125 km away from Aurangabad are one of the most outstanding Buddhist caves in the whole India. Which depicts the story of Buddhism from 200BC to 650 BC. Ajanta caves were rediscovered in 1819 AD. Situated far from city these caves were built of a huge rock cut into the side of a cliff that is on the south side of a U-shaped gorge on the small rive waghorar, which provided a calm and serene environment for the Buddhist monks who treated at these secluded places during the rainy season. The caves include the paintings and sculptures which Is described as “the finest surviving examples of the Indian art, particularly painting” by the Indian archaeological department. In 1983 the Ajanta caves declared as the UNESCO world heritage site. . Ajanta is famous for its Buddhist rock cut cave temples and monasteries with their extraordinary wall paintings. The Ajanta caves depict paintings and sculptures that shows heavy religious influence, revolving around Buddhist philosophy, Bodhisattvas, incidents from the life of Gautama Buddha and the Jataka Tales. The caves are embellished with paintings of infinite charm, sculpted with skills of the highest craftsmanship, narrating scenes of semi-mythological history, the royal court and lifestyle of the ancient times.

The caves were excavated between the 1st century BCE and the 7th century are of two types, chatiya (sanctuaries) and viharas (monasteries). Although the sculpture, particularly the rich ornamentation of the chatiya pillars, is noteworthy, it is the fresco-type paintings that are the chief interest of Ajanta. these caves carved out of solid rock with little more than a hammer and chisel, comprises shrines, dedicated to Lord Buddha and monasteries (Viharas) used by Buddhist monks for meditation and study of Buddhist teachings according to their place the path, beginning at the entrance. They are mostly square shaped and dipects life of gautam Buddha and teachings of Buddha. The caves are built in 2 phases one in 2 century BCA which is satvahana period consists of 9, 10, 12, 13, and 15, Among these 9 and 10 caves consists stupa halls of chatiyas viharas and 12,13 and 15 are viharas. the second phase was built  in 450 to 650 BCA. according  to Indian archaeological survey there are 29 caves in Ajanta among  which 5 consists of temples and 24 of monasteries. The caves, famous for its murals, are the finest surviving examples of Indian art, particularly painting, fresco type, which the attractive centre Ajanta. Buddha preaching in sitting position is the other common example of sculptures. The monasteries mostly consists of viharas halls of prayer and living, which are typically rectangular with small square dormitory cells cut into the walls.

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Cave one was built on the eastern end of the horse shoe shaped scarp. The exploration starts at the 1st cave of Ajanta and the visitors are greeted by the great Buddha image. Twelve pillars make a square colonnade inside supporting the ceiling and creating spacious aisles along the walls. There is shrine carved on rare wall to house an impressive seated image of Buddha with his hand being in the dharamachakrapravartana mudra. the walls are covered with paintings depicting the scenes of jatakas stories of buddha’s former existences as bodhisattva. The doorway to the cave is decorated with auspicious motifs. Cave1 has one of the most elaborate carved facades with relef sculpture on entablature and ridges. There are secences carved from the buddha’s life.   This cave has numerous sculptures and fresco type paintings of Bodhisattvas Padmapani and Vajrapani, carvings of princesses, lovers, maids and dancing girls, scenes depicting the Persian Embassy, Golden Geese, Pink Elephants and Bull Fights.

Cave 2 is known for the immense painting of the thousand of Buddha’s monks, that have been preserved on its wall, ceiling and pillar which shows noble and powerful women in prominent roles. The ceilings are also painted with sophisticated and elaborate decorative motifs, many derived from sculpture. Paintings appear almost every surface except floor which depicts the buddha’s teachings and life through successive rebirth and life of Buddha as a king. at many places the art work become eroded due to decays and human interference but still this art work able to beautifully present the incident of life during Buddha. The cave is supported by the robust pillars. Cave 3 is merely start of an excavation. cave 4 has seated Buddha alone with large numberous unfinished Buddha images. according to Indian archeological survey this is the largest monastery planned on a grandious scale but was never finished. Paintings depicts Buddha in preaching pose. Cave 5 consists of two viharas one above other connected by internal stairs.  cave 6 is an important cave of the Mahayana phase of Buddhism. Besides, there are monasteries and stupas in other caves. The murals found here are in the style of tempera and the painting done is with the use of glue, dried lime wash and plaster. The colors used are red, black, lapis lazuli and the terra verte, which are all naturally available in the rocks. Even the sculptures were painted, but in the due course, the paintings have washed away. Caves 9 and 10 are consists of 4 complete charity halls with murals surviving and plain octagonal columns painted with figures and walls of these caves depicts the image of Buddha and jataka tales.

Cave 11 marks the transition between the Hinayana and the Mahayana phases of Buddhism. Cave 16 abd 17 are monesteries with full image of jataka stoeies and with images of buddha’s childhood and adulthood which is a  good examples of architecture. Cave 16 gives a good view of the ravine and the Giant Statue of Buddha in this cave is in the abhayamudra, or the teaching gesture. Cave 16 leads to main hall consists shrine. The 17th cave is noted for a magnificent painting showing a king and queen with their attendants going in a royal procession. The section of mural in cave no. 17 present the coming of Sinhala, descendence of prince vijaya of srilanka. The image in the cave 19 is that of Buddha sitting with his feet squat on the base, in a rigid pose, only enlivened by the gestures of his hand and the flying couples above him.

Also the mesmerizing paintings of the Ajanta caves are worth to watch. All the caves have been carved with precision and adorned with exquisite architectural details. The artwork in the caves comprises well preserved wall paintings of Boddhisattva, Padmapani and Avalokiteshvar All painting have religious influence centre of bodhisattvas and incidents from the life of Buddha and the jatakas.the paintings are executded on a ground in the tempera technique. The paintings on the wall, which is around1500 year old illustrate the events in the life of prince gutama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism and the most popular jatakas stories pertaining to Buddha’s incarnation. These paintings also contain the scenes of semi mythological history, the royal courts and the popular life of ancient time and some paintings recall the greek and roman composition and to some extent the Chinese manner.

 The main theme of the paintings is the depiction of various jataka stories, different incidents with the life of Buddha and the contemporary events of social and religious life.  The refine lightness of decoration, the marvelous paintings of women figures place the Ajanta paintings among the major achievements of the gupta and post gupta style and confer them ranking of universal pictorial art. The paintings were done on wet plaster and then color applied. The wet plaster had the capacity to soak the colors so that it would not peel off or decay easily. The colors reefed to as earth color or vegetable colors. Sculptures often covered with stucco to give them a finish polish. Stucco had the ingredient of lime and powdered seashell. The paintings are narrative of jataka stories demanded the special attention of devotees. the paintings and sculpture on Buddha;s life, belonging to more mellow and ritualistic Mahayana Buddhism period are world famous. Visitors often asked how the artist who painted the detailed frescoes and chiseled out the intricate carvings, managed to work in the dark interior of the caves. It has been noticed that the caves are illuminated by natural light.

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These caves are the unique symbol of history Buddhism and India’s world famous artwork. The best time of visiting Ajanta caves is November to march, because at this time in pleasant weather with the natural beauty and peaceful environment  can make your journey awesome.

Ancient Towns and Natural Marvels: Albania



Ancient Towns and Natural Marvels: Albania

Located in southeastern Europe, the “New Mediterranean Love” or the country of Albania is a traveler’s jackpot as it has something to offer to all kinds of visitors. From abundant natural beauty, to towns replete with historical significance, brilliant beaches, or appetizing cuisine, the wide ranging terrain of Albania is a place with vivid and spectacular avenues to explore.

Mountains, Albania

Many towns and cities of Albania are included among UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Albania’s history goes back to Illyrian times. Clear Greek, or Illyrian, Byzantine or Roman, and Ottoman influences are visible in the architectural, cultural and social domains. Innumerable castles are scattered throughout the Albanian landscape. To add to the majestic and historical value, the towns and their architecture make them popular among tourists.

Albanian castles

 

Ancient Towns

Different towns are known for different features. For instance the beauty and serenity of Sarande make it a popular Honeymoon destination. The views of the sunset and sunrise over Sarande’s beaches are truly splendid.

Saranda

 

If Sarande is known for its natural beauty, then town of Korce has rich historical significance. Located in the lap of Morava Mountains, Korce’s history can be traced back to Copper age, and also has Mycenaean, (Greek) and Ottoman rules and influences in their past. Kruje is also a popular tourist site. The ottoman rule of 15th century, and further back the Illyrian tribes till 12th century made their mark on Kruje. Situated near Mount Kruje, and on the banks of river Ishem, it does not lack in natural beauty either. Picturesque locales abound in these cities of Albania. Pogradec, a city that is home to many ancient castles, bridges, and old mosaics, is also known as City of Poets. This is mostly due to the fact that many famous Albanian authors hailed from Pogradec. The towns and cities included among world Heritage Sites include those of Berat, Butrint and Gjirokaster.

Berat.

 

Butrint Amphitheatre

Butrint is a Roman and Greek City, whereas Gjirokaster is a medieval Ottoman town. Berat, a popular destination among tourists, was named as the ‘Town of Thousand Windows.’

Castles

Rozafa Castle

Many castles can be found in Albania, and make up for imposing sites. Some of the more famous ones include Rozafa Castle, Berat Castle, Lekurest Castle, Pogradec Castle, Gjirokaster Castle. This is by no means an exhaustive enumeration, there are countless more castles situated in charming and ancient Albanian towns. Shkoder is Albania’s most historic of towns, and located nearby is the Rozafa Castle. Dating back to 167 BCE, it has Illyrian, Roman and Ottoman influences. Its dating makes it evident that the current standing structures are largely due to subsequent renovations. The now preserved structures have Venetian architectural influences. Overlooking the town of Berat is the Berat Castle. Located near river Osum it dates back to the 13th century. There are many ancient churches and a mosque around the once majestic fortress.

Castles in Albania

 

Gjirokaster Castle also houses a military museum. Lekurest Castle dates back to 16th century and overlooks Saranda. These castles, their ruins and remains are a testament to Albania’s extremely rich history.

Natural Marvels

The Albanian Riviera, Albanian Alps, Lakes (like Ohrid, Belsh, Skadar), Rivers like Drin and their picturesque surroundings, Ksamil Islands, different mountain ranges, Kakame Bay, the pristine beaches and turquoise waters, the vivid and colorful fauna and flora all make Albania a naturally blessed country. Located in Delvine, the Blue Eye Spring is another very popular destination among tourists. A visually attractive phenomenon that happens naturally, a pool (with depth not yet confirmed but more than 50 m deep) produces a water spring. The blue waters gushing from the pool and acting as a source for a river make up for a natural and wonderful view.

Blue Eye Spring

Drin, longest Albanian river and the natural beauty that abounds around it provide some spectacular visions. An artificially made lake, Koman fills up the canyons of Drin. The mountains through which the river Drin weaves its way, and the flamboyant flora and fauna that is interspersed around its course all make up for a beautiful and stunning place.

Drin

Lake Skadar is another place popular from the view point of tourism. This lake is named after Shkoder, which is an ancient and culturally vibrant Albanian town. The lake is not popular merely because of its scenic qualities. It is also a favored place among bird watchers, being Europe’s largest bird reserves. Around 270 species of birds that include pelicans, herons and seagulls can be easily spotted here. All these factors come together to make Lake Skadar (also known as Lake Scutari) a charming site.

lake Skadar

Albania is also famous for its beaches, the untouched beauty compounded by the pristine sands, blue of the waters and the waves all make it a delight for beach lovers. From sunbathing, to imbibing the stunning natural beauty the vast seas and skies of Albania make up for memorable experiences. Various cities and towns have spectacular and touristy beaches. The Albanian Riviera in Vlore is a coastal area most popular as a tourist attraction.

Albanian Riviera

 

These beaches are surrounded by Ceraunian Mountains and Ionian Sea on different sides. Scattered across this coastline are various ancient structures like castles, medieval churches and traditional villages. Many national parks are also situated nearby. Castles along this Riviera include those of Borshi castle, Ali Pasha Castle, Kanine Castle to name a few. There are many plantations along this coastline; these include olive groves, orange and lemon plantations. The varied landscapes, from mountains, seas to rich flora and fauna, beaches, caves, castles all harmonize and make Albanian Riviera a spectacular and unforgettable location.

Beaches

Albania is also called “Europe’s Last Secret”. All the natural and archaeological Albanian offerings are treasures worth exploring. It is bound to leave all travelers with memories that can be cherished forever.

South Africa – The Pearl of Africa



South Africa – The Pearl of Africa

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The rainbow nation and one of the greatest examples of unity in diversity in the world, South Africa is a country with great pride, natural beauty, cultural diversification and a resilient past. Located in the southern tip of Africa, the country was among the first regions to be colonized by the Europeans in the late 16th century a time when European Kingdoms were becoming commercial, seafaring super powers bent on conquering the world through Imperialism. South Africa today stands with its head tall as a symbol of tenacity and unity among different races becoming a major attraction of tourists in its years as a democratic country post the Apartheid. A country so rich in its representation of the original African culture, South Africa is a developing country which is battling to bring its people out of extreme poverty and help them lead a life full of prosperity and opportunity.

Though much of South Africa’s history may appear as a conflict between two races of mankind, it has today move beyond all that in its interpretation and representation. South Africa’s history can be seen as a long struggle which has finally bore fruits resulting in this wonderful nation of racial unity. The land which is today known as South Africa was occupied by indigenous African tribes known as ‘San ‘and ‘Khoekhoe’ or collectively as ‘Khosan’ who were basically hunter gatherers some 2,500 years ago. Modern Humanity was already strolling these parts of Africa some 100,000 thousand years before the first modern human was spotted in Europe. Out of the two tribes located towards the southern part of the country, the Khoekhoe people were primarily settled near the coastal regions. In the interior of the country many Bantu-speaking tribes had settled around the northern and north-eastern region.

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Fast forward into the mid-17th century and South Africa began to see its first European settlers coming into the land and forming settlement colonies. In 1652, a group of Dutch citizens had sailed into the Cape of Good Hope with the intention of settling in and starting farming in the region they were sponsored to do so by the Dutch East India Company. The Cape of Good Hope the southernmost tip of Africa was discovered a few decades earlier by the Portuguese Vasco De Gama who was looking for sea route into India. Colonization resulted in successive clashes between the new settlers and the indigenous tribes leading to the famous battle of Blood River. In the 20th century, the region was unified under the nation state of South Africa by this time South Africa had already experienced the Gold Rush which saw many European travel to the country in search of the elusive treasure which has today made the country one of the leading exporters of Gold and Diamond to the world.

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Modern Republic of South Africa was born out of a three decade long fight against Apartheid by various Black as well as White leaders most notably among them being Nelson Mandela who eventually won and led to establishment of the democratic rainbow nation in 1994. Since then the country hasn’t looked back, it has prospered through the past decades and established itself as one of the greatest destination to visit in the African continent. South Africa has a lot to offer to the millions of visitors that come to its shores every year, the rich cultural, geographical and natural diversity of the country is one of the major attraction points. South Africa is a treasure trove for lovers of nature, adventure, sports, beaches and a laid back life.

Traveling in South Africa can be made far easier if you go region by region in your explorations. The Western Cape with Cape Town as its crown is a great coastal region. The Mother City of Cape Town with its major attractions of the Table Mountain, the Cape of Good Hope, the white sand beaches and the luxurious vineyards that stretch into acres are amazing. The Eastern Cape is known to be the Mecca of beach lovers and surfers alike with the beautiful coastal cities of East London, Port Elizabeth as well as home to two great National Parks of Addo Elephant and Tsitsikamma. The Northern Cape famous for being the biggest of provinces, for its diamond mines and being home to the Kalahari and Karoo deserts.

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Today South Africa has also established itself as the adventure capital of the world with many world class adventure events happening in the country, adventure sports such as flying fox, sky diving, climbing, surfing, diving, hiking and many other extreme sports are just fabulous to experience here. The country has also announced itself on the global stage by hosting the 2010 Fifa World Cup which lead to millions of people flooding the country and discovering its beauty besides the football. The great landscapes of the country along with dedicated tour operators make it one of the preferred destinations for adventure junkies. South Africa is slowly establishing itself as a great nation which can offer its visitors great adventure, culture, heritage, history and hospitality. It is a mesmerizing example of what Africa holds in its womb, the beauty that lies within it and the ability to enchant for many centuries to come.

The Shopper’s Sinful Indulgence: Harrods, London



The Shopper’s Sinful Indulgence: Harrods, London

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London is the heart of England and the shopaholics of London have the Harrods in their hearts. Harrods is nothing else but an upmarket departmental store located on the Brompton Road, Knightsbridge, the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea in London. The Harrods group of Companies has many enterprises, such as the Harrods Bank, Harrods Estates, Harrods Buenos Aries, Harrods Aviation, etc. But out of all these, the most popular enterprise of the Harrods brand is the departmental store.

Harrods-interior

The Harrods in London occupies a land of 5 acres which an area of twenty thousand square meters. There are more than 330 departments within a selling space of more than a million sq. feet. This makes Harrods the biggest and the largest departmental store in, not just London, but the entire England. The motto of Harrods is “Omnia Omnibus Ubique” which means “All Things for All People and Everywhere”.

The place was built by Charles Henry Harrod. He first established his business as a draper at the age of 25 in 1824 at the south of Thames River in Southwark. Later he grew his business from that to a grocery wholesaler and later moved his business to nice posh places of London. Then the business was taken over by his son Charles Digby Harrod in 1861. The business faced many ups and downs like fire in 1883. The current building of Harrods was completely constructed in 1905 after the initiation of designing in the year 1894. The architecture was designed by the famous architect Chalres William Stephens. Later, the business was expanded and they moved to many foreign branches and bought many stores. They worked hard and progressed from a single store to a chain of stores and came to level they are at today. Today, Harrods is biggest store in the whole Europe and is approximately half the size of the biggest departmental store of UK, Oxford Street. This is an inspiring and motivational story for London and the whole world.

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The products and services offered in these departmental stores are countless. Since there are more than three hundred stores, the range of services varies to a great extent. They offer products like clothes for men, women, children and infants, electronic appliances, jewelry for all, sporting gears, toys, pets and their accessories, bridal trousseau, beauty products and health items, gift items, housewares and home furniture and appliances, stationery items and many other products. You name it and they have it. The services offered are more than you can think of. There are about 32 restaurants which serve a wide range of dishes and beverages such as high tea, tapas, pub food, haute cuisines apart from the regular fast food items and meals. There is a personal shopping assistance programme offered in the Harrods which is called the “By Appointment”. Other regular services usually offered are tailoring; watch repair; beauty spa and salon; pharmacy and dispensary; barbers shop; Ella Jade Bathroom Planning and design  service; event planning and catering services, food delivery counters; wine steward; bespoke fragrance formulations, cakes, gift boxes and picnic hampers; Harrods Financial Services and Harrods Bank and many others. On the peak days, the place is visited by more than 3 million customers which is the maximum proportion of customers in London from non-English speaking countries. Staff at Harrods is also very diverse and comes from more than fifty different countries and the entire population of staff is much more than 5 thousand.

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Harrods, being such a great place, is the holder of some Royal warrants from Queen Elizabeth II for Provisions and Household Goods, from the Duke of Edinburg for the outfitters, from The Prince of Wales f or Outfitters and Saddlers and from the Late Queen Elizabeth (The Queen Mother) for the China and Glass products. The Royal Warrants were held since the year 1910 but were removed from Harrods by the Al-Fayed by burning them as reported by the ‘Daily Telegraph’ of London.

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The Harrods also has a dress code which was implemented in 1989 because several people believed that it were not properly dressed. The dress policy includes a soldier in the soldier’s uniform and a scout troop dress accordingly. Along with these, there is a woman in Mohican hair style and FC Shakhtar Donetsk’s team with tracksuits on. But this policy is no longer compulsory and most of the outfits and dresses are allowed. But they are still very strict about certain styles of clothes like Bermuda, beach shorts, cycling shorts, beach wear or swim wear, flip flops, thong sandals, high cut, bare feet, etc. They will not allow anyone wearing such clothes to enter the complex and the staff has complete right to deny you to enter the store without giving explanations. They also do not allow sweaty or dirty clothing.

Being famous is not as easy as eating. This is also the case with Harrods. Harrods have been criticized and blamed for various reasons many times. It was criticized using regular protests outside the Harrods for selling products with real animal fur. It was also criticized for selling a line of female underwear with the images of Indian Goddesses and this came from the Hindu community. But in spite of all these issues, Harrods stands high as a symbol of England.

The Emirati Pride: Abu Dhabi



The Emirati Pride: Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi, being the center of the government and centralized capital of UAE- United Arab Emirates, is the most important cities in the world. It is also considered as the biggest and modern city of Emirate of Abu Dhabi. A large number of embassies and oil companies have their respective headquarters in Abu Dhabi. It is also known to be a place of rich people as only 420,000 people live there but each have a net worth of 17 million dollars. The city is well maintained and is very beautiful. All the roads and streets of the city are lined with green boulevards, buildings and hotels are very sophisticated, shopping malls are lavish and the gardens or parks are very large and gorgeous. The street addresses are very logical and will seem confusing to some people. The city was mostly developed after the death of Sheikh Zayed in the year 2004. His son, Sheikh Khalifa, took his place and made the city what it is today. This amazing city has many things in store for its people.

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The Architectural Treasure: Sheikh Zayed Mosque

Sheikh Zayed Mosque is the sixth largest mosque and one of the most beautiful treasures in the entire world. People of all nationality can visit the mosque. Non-Muslims can enter the Mosque in Sa-Th mornings only. The tour of the whole mosque can be done in 60 minutes. The materials used for the magnificent features of this mosque are best quality and are supplied by best suppliers from each corner of the globe. The artistic splendor of Sheikh Zayed Mosque is remarkable and people are definitely going to appreciate that.

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The Glorious ‘Manarat Al Saadiyat’

This enlightened place covers 15,400 square meters of area of the Saadiyat Island. The Manarat Al Saadiyat was built to represent the vision of the Saadiyat Island at one place. The place also includes an Abu Dhabi Arts Gallery in the main area for an educational experience for visitors. The Abu Dhabi Arts Gallery is the place for art lovers as it offers a number of educational and exhibitions programs. Some other arts galleries in Manarat Al Saadiyat are the Universal Gallery, the Contemporary Art Gallery and the Central Events Gallery. The entire trip of Manarat Al Saadiyat will be eye-pleasing to the people.

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The Al-Hosn Palace or Qasr Al Hosn Fort

Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan used to live at the Al-Hosn Palace but now this beautiful palace is regarded as a archeological historical place and is open for visitors. The palace is also known as the White Fort and the Old Fort. It is indeed the oldest building in Abu Dhabi. It also holds some important documentation of the Gulf region and some historical documents on the heritage of UAE. The interior of the courtyard is heavenly and is developed in traditional Arab style. Its walls are decorated with modern arts by using concrete glass. The most outstanding feature of the palace is the tile work on the main north gate. Many historical paintings, artifacts and photographs are held inside the main palace. A special natural history section is there to feature animal life. Pottery and other artifacts are also there.

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The Traditional Golf Course: Yas Links

Yas Island, the unique island which has the richest ecosystem in Abu Dhabi, is the only island with three coastal habitats. Thus, provides the perfect background for a large golf course. This extraordinary golf course, named Yas Links, is among the Top 100 Golf Courses in the world and is at the 95th position among the Best Golf Courses on the Planet. It is the 1st Links golf course to be established in the Middle East region. This golf course offers an eighteen-hole course, a golf academy, a floodlit practice facilities and a nine-hole academy course. All are set with the background of the Arabian Gulf. This traditional golf course offers the right challenges with the correct thrills, the golfers have ever dream about. The unparallel glory of the game is still intact in Abu Dhabi because of Yas Links.

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The World Famous ‘Ferrari World’

The biggest indoor theme park in the world is the Ferrari World. This place is specially designed friendly for families. Ferrari World is a host of many amazing rides and attractions that will imprint a never-forgetting experience in the minds of the visitors. The high speed rides will be a thrilling experience for the youngsters. Apart from the rides, there are many unique shops, a Ferrari boutique and some other entertainments. Some restaurants which offer delicious Italian food are also there. People can also interact with the shopping consultants. They will provide free advice to the people as per their budget and style. In addition to this stuff, the Largest Ferrari Store in the world is also located in the Ferrari World.

Abu Dhabi also has several other places with beautiful gardens and lovely fountains decorated with neon lights and sculptures also. Khalifa Park is also popular for its play parks, aquarium and museum. Corniche (famous for its sandy beaches), Flagpole (on Marina Island), Yas and Lulu Islands, Emirates National Auto Museum, Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation, Abu Dhabi Ice Rink and the Caracal Shooting Club are the other famous places in Abu Dhabi. This is the only place on this entire earth which is traditional, historic, mysterious, adventurous and magnificent at the same time.

Experiences That Count: Europe by Eurail



Experiences That Count: Europe by Eurail

A trip via tracks, through the most breathtaking scenic beauties along the way, Eurail allows its travelers to travel across Europe at their own pace and comfort. Eurail is a group, consisting of a group of 30 European railways providing a network of trains that covers up to 27 European countries which include France, Italy, Switzerland and Greece. Started way back in 1959, the Eurail provides budget travel to people who come to explore the vast Europe but don’t know where to begin. It offers a complete list of passes as per the selected destinations to various countries across Europe. Usually they tend to be point to point between two countries but the passes are also available for 3 to 4 countries or a global pass covering 24 countries over the journey.

 

ITALY

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Over 40 million visit this beautiful country every year. A country offering the greatest number of world heritage sites, Italy is a place that cannot be missed on a trip to Europe. Here the ‘City of Water’ as Venice is called waits to amaze you with its unbelievable architecture. The jewel of water cities, it forms a hotspot for tourist in Italy. The Colosseum in capital city Rome is another attraction in Italy, reviving the history through its majestic architecture. Built in 72 AD it retains its charm and magnificence till date. With the Eurail you can get 10 days of unlimited travel on the national rail network of Italy over two months time.

 

GREECE

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To begin with Greece, one of the top tourist sites that lies here is the cosmopolitan town of Mykonos. The narrow streets with white-washed houses, the sandy beaches and a lively place at night all in one are here at Mykonos. Santorini is another destination in Greece that draws crowd in large number to this volcano island that dazzles in different yet dramatic shades of sunset. Journey through Greece is incomplete without visiting Athens. The Parthenon that stands at the top of Acropolis, was built in 432 BC, is a remarkable example of the Greek architecture, and continues to attract tourist from all over the world. There is a choice of 10 days of unlimited train within a month period to Greece.

 

FRANCE

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A combination of breathtaking beauty, rich cultural and historical heritage, beaches and cliffs all in one, France is one of the favorites among tourist. With 83 million tourist alone in 2012, it has become a popular tourist destination. Paris being the most visited city in the world displays with pride one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Eiffel Tower. Moustiers-Sainte-Marie is one of the most beautiful villages in France built on the platforms of hundreds of meters up the side of a limestone cliff. The Loire Valley, famous for  its vineyards displays a breathtaking beauty of, spanned across a large 280 kilometers.

 

SPAIN

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Spain has a variety to offer to its tourist with exotic beaches, islands, monuments, churches and even running of the Bulls to the adventure seekers. The most visited places include Alhambra. On a plateau in the city of Granada lies this beautiful palace that was built long ago in 14th century. The Mezquita of Cordoba is another fascinating building with its arches and pillars. A Roman Catholic church , Sangrada Fimilia is another tourist attraction, with its construction being started in 1882 and still going on. Spain also offers one of the best beaches in Europe that is La Concha in San Sebastian.

 

ROMANIA

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The collection of fortresses and castles in Romania illustrates its rich heritage. The huge castles basically built for protection from invaders, from 14th to 18th century still stand tall and majestic. The Bran Castle in Transylvania – Central Romania, is a gigantic castle built on a hilltop of 200 foot long rock, carries the mystical stories of the famous Dracula. The Corvinesti Castle Central Romania is another such wondrous castle with beautiful courtyards and marvelous architecture. Also famous for its churches Romania resides Biertan Fortified Church, one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites featuring marvelous architecture.

 

POLAND

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Poland has a chaotic past but despite that it is a place that is rich historically and culturally. Visiting Poland seems as if you are drawn back as you see its historic treasures intact in time. The Baltic Sea in Gdynia, offers a breathtaking view as the cliffs and the beaches lay in parallel, complementing each other. The Malbork Castle of Malbork is a feast to the eyes and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Ostróda-Elbląg Canal offers a beautiful scenic view and one of the best waterways in Europe.

 

GERMANY

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The Frauenkirche church in Dresdan is one of the tourist hotspots in Germany. Berlin, the capital city of Germany is one of the most fascinating capital cities in Europe. Brandenburg Gate, Berlin is something that cannot be missed.  Another famous tourist spot is the Neuschwanstein Castle in Bravaria, which became an inspiration to the sleeping beauty castles in Disneyland.

Eurail offers a convenient way to visit your favorite holiday destinations all in a span of time and at their own pace. Plying from country to country across Europe, it has not only made travel easier but also brought these countries in a close connected bundle of hotspots.