Daily Archives: 07.03.2014

The Old World Charm of Finland’s Capital: Helsinki



The Old World Charm of Finland’s Capital: Helsinki

Helsinki, the capital of Finland since 19th century, was founded in the year 1550. This modern and urbanized city still manages to hold on to an old world charm, that makes it very popular among tourists. Helsinki offers many architectural, cultural and natural avenues for the visitors to explore.

View of city of Helsinki

Helsinki is easily accessible through air, rail and road services. One can even reach the city from Stockholm or Tallinn through ferry rides, the added benefit of this means of travel is that it provides some spectacular views of the city of Helsinki from across the waters. The best time to experience Helsinki’s many sights is during the summer, from around May to August. The Helsinki Cathedral, Sibelius Park, and Suomenlinna Fortress constitute some of the renowned tourist attractions of this city.

Suomenlinna Sea fortress

The many islands of Helsinki provide innumerable activities for tourists. Constructed in 1700s by the Swedish, the Suomenlinna Fortress is one of the greatest sea fortress ever built worldwide. A short ferry ride from the Market Square, stepping into Suomenlinna is like stepping into a different era. The fortress is also included in UNESCO’s World Heritage List as a “unique monument to European military architecture”. Besides its architectural value, the ancient buildings, old structures, relatively lesser vehicular movement make it a testament of the rich and varied Finnish history. The cafes and theaters situated within the fortress’s larger complex and beautiful surroundings provide ideal opportunities for picnics, making Suomenlinna popular among tourists.

Korkessari Zoo

There are several other islands, minutes ride from the market Square, each with their own unique offerings. The Pihlajasaari and Uunisaari for instance are known for their pristine beaches. The white sands, turquoise waters are perfectly apt for swimming, or simply sunbathing. These beaches are not overly crowded making them serene and meditative in addition to their beauty. The large island of Korkesaari is best known for the Helsinki Zoo, which boasts of some 200 animal species and 1000 different species of plants. Established as far back as 1889, this also happens to be world’s oldest zoo. Many tourist agencies also organize sightseeing cruises along these islands, providing some stunning landscapes, and equally rich historical sites too.

Seurasaari

Seurasaari is known for its mesmerizing open air museum. This island houses traditional Finnish houses and outbuildings dating back to many centuries, and which have been collected from across the country. To walk among the woods and the wilderness of this island, which is periodically interrupted by these historic houses, to encounter guides dressed in traditional costumes of Finland and elaborating about the country’s past and rich cultural heritage, all these leave the visitors with a sense of having gone back in time.

Sibelius Park

Yet another different site that never fails to fascinate the visitors is the Sibelius Park. The Sibelius Park was finished in the year 1967, and is dedicated to famous Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. This monument in steel is one of the most well known attractions of Helsinki. The steel pipes are clustered together in such a way that they resemble an organ. This contemporary sculpture is included in all sightseeing tours that are made available for the tourists.

Senate Square

Helsinki, the capital city of Finland, is an architectural delight. The diverse historical monuments of neoclassical style all add a different appeal to the landscape. The Senate Square which has four prominent and eye catching buildings was constructed mostly during the years 1822 to 1852. Government Palace, National Library of Finland, building of University of Finland, and Helsinki Cathedral, all are perfect specimens of architectural landmarks. The Helsinki Cathedral specially functions as a sort of city symbol, being among the most renowned sites in the city.

Helsinki Cathedral

The Helsinki Cathedral dates back to the 1850s and its construction began some twenty years prior to that. This popular tourist attraction is situated in the capital’s centre. The Lutheran Cathedral has as an arresting visual impact owing to the white façade, green domes, and the twelve apostles on the roof, and the whole neoclassical influence visible in its architecture. It is one of the most prominent landmarks of Helsinki. There are numerous churches and religious structures interspersed in the city, each with their own fascinating histories and stories in addition to architectural significance. Near the Market Square of Helsinki is located the Uspenski Cathedral, a Russian Church. The 22 carat gold topping the church’s five domes, along with the fascinating myths and miracles regarding the icons of this church make it worth a visit.

Church in the Rock

The Church in the Rock is another worthwhile attraction. The name derives courtesy the fact that this was actually dug out of solid rock. Built in 1969, the roof of the church consists of 22km of copper strips.  Many concerts are organized here, making it popular among tourists.

Sofiankatu Street

There are many museums around Helsinki providing a glimpse into the city and Finland’s rich historical and cultural trajectories. Ateneum Art Museum built in 1887, boasts of the largest collection of paintings and sculptures in Finland which span over 1750s to 1950s. Museum of Cultures and Design Museum are some other worthwhile sites. Helsinki City Museum provides a fascinating experience; as in addition to the ancient buildings of the museum, it has also restored the Sofiankatu Street as it was during the 1930s.

Central Park

The many parks scattered around Helsinki provide a sense of leaving the city life behind. The lush greenery, seascape, observing the ferries go by, lazing around in the charming cafes, quaint walkways in the woods, the parks of Helsinki like the Central Park, Esplanadi Park etc have these and much more to offer.

Tram Ride

There is also a Vintage Tram Ride that is organized during the summer times, peak time for visitors. Starting from the Market Square, this 20 minutes ride in a tram dating back to 1909 is truly unique. Helsinki, its natural surroundings and many cultural and architectural offerings wrap this modern city in an old world charm, providing tourists with a memorable experience.

Archipelago of the Azores



Archipelago of the Azores

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About 950 miles west of Lisbon lies the stunning archipelago of the Azores. It is a conglomerate of nine volcanic islands located in the North Atlantic Ocean. Often described as the tips of the lost continent of Atlantis, the islands have an Old World charm around them that cannot be found anywhere else in Europe. It seems as if Mother Nature has brought together nine worlds that share the same spirit of universal friendship. These nine volcanic islands are located about 1500 kilometres from the western edge of the Iberian Peninsula. The residents of Azores speak a variety of Portuguese that is very similar to the standard European Portuguese. Spread along a south-east – north- east strip, the Azores is home to about 246,746 people according to the 2011 Census.

Brought together in an archipelago, each Azorean island is different from the other. Be it the landscape, traditions, cuisine or architecture, there are no appropriate words to describe the majesty of these nine charismatic islands.  Agriculture, fishing, ranching, livestock and diary farming are the chief means of livelihood for the Azoreans. Azores has a mild climate. The Koppen climate classification calls it the ‘dry summer subtropical’, commonly known as ‘Mediterranean’. The summer is warm and sunny and they do not receive frequent rainfalls. The Azores High, named after the islands have the highest atmospheric pressure in the region.  This uninhabited region of the early 15th century is today packed with Portuguese settlers from Algarve, Alentejo and Minho. The Azores has been an autonomous region within the Portuguese Republic since the 70’s and has an independent government and legislature.

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Santa Maria, Sao Miguel, Terceira, Graciosa, Faial, Pico, Sao Jorge, Flores, and Corvo are the nine islands that make the archipelago of the Azores. Santa Maria offers excellent water sports facilities. The Nossa Senhora dos Anjos Chapel where the Colombus’ crew prayed is also locate in this island. The largest among the nine islands, Sao Miguel offers the best visual treat to one’s eye. Filled with the traditions and culture of the Azores of the past, we can take a walk down the memory lane. The Terceira Island is famous for its forts, palaces and cathedrals. Angra do Heroismo, the historic centre of its capital has also found a place in the UNESCO International Heritage List. Graciosa on the other hand is the land of ancient streets and manor houses.

Horta, a famous yacht harbour of the Faial Island offers the best view of the beautiful tiles and carvings of the 17th century churches and cathedrals.  The Sacred Art Museum, the Caldeira Natural Reserve and the caves Costa de Feteira are other interesting tourist destinations of Faial. The 7713ft high volcanic cone gave the Pico Island its name. The island is a must watch! The fishing town of Velas is the main town of the island of Sao Jorge. It is also one of the island of the ‘triangulo’ which also includes Faial and Pico. The Ribeira Grande Waterfall and the Lagoas (a conglomerate of seven lakes surrounded by flowers) are the major attractions in Flores. The smallest and the peaceful among all the nine islands is Corvo. The narrow cobblestoned streets in Vila do Corvo is incredibly amazing. Caldeirao, a street in Corvo is also famous for its two lakes that has nine small islands in them, like the archipelago.

Corvo

The chief mode of transportation to these nine islands is via airways. Flights are available on a daily basis too.  All the islands also have a different airfield thereby making it easy for the tourists. You can also take the inter island flights and ferries to travel between the islands of Azores. The Azores is also famous for its marine transport. The sea was the chief means of trade and communication during the 17- 18th centuries. From small shipping boats, today the shipbuilding industry has had a massive growth and even run large passenger services. Travel packages are also made available by The Azores Tourism Board. Once you arrive, rental cars, buses and taxi services can availed in almost all the islands. To have unlimited fun during your journey to the archipelago, planning is an important factor. The free guidebooks one gets at the airports and lodgings are always helpful.

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Stay at Azores is an experience one could cherish for a lifetime. From self catering restaurants to boutique style hotels, Azores has a wide range of accommodation to offer to its visitors. We get to spend quality time with family and at the same time experience the beauty of traditional rural houses. The Azores Archipelago is also one of the first whale and dolphin watching sites in the world. From island exploration walks and sightseeing tours, the archipelago also offers its adventurous visitors challenging sports like mountain biking, trekking, kayaking and parachuting.  It is also one of the most sought after golfing destination. Azores is indeed the seat of both beauty and adventure.

Visiting the Azores is an incredible experience. The way the nine islands carry themselves can make one lovestruck that one couldn’t resist that inner urge to visit the place another time or maybe more.  The Azores is also the perfect honeymoon destination.  It also stands out as a famous tourist attraction that respects environmental and socio- cultural values. This Portuguese archipelago is one of “the few unspoilt paradises on the planet”.

Perth: The Fair City



Perth: The Fair City

The glorious capital city of Perth is in Australia. It is indeed the most isolated city in the world. The city is centered along the well-known Swan River. The city is surrounded by the Indian Ocean from west and by the Darling Scarp from the east. In Australia, it is the 4th biggest city with an overall population of 1.6 million. Much of the population of Perth is because of the presence of Nyoongar people. Nyoongar people are living in Perth from the past 40 thousand years. Perth is not very much crowded; it is quiet, laid-back and safe.

How to reach there?

perth

If you intend to travel by plane then there is “Perth Airport” through which all the domestic as well as international flights take off as well as arrive from different countries. There are four terminals that are located on either side of the runway. The names of some of the major international airlines from these terminals are Air New Zealand, Cathay Pacific, Air Mauritius, Emirates and China Southern whereas Alliance Airlines, Tiger Airways Australia, Skywest Airlines, Jetstar, Quantas and Airnorth are the names of some domestic flights. Once upon a time the only way to reach Perth was by boat. Some passenger ships still dock at Fremantle. Queen Victoria and Queen Mary 2 are the names of the world cruise ships through which you can safely travel. Travelling by ships will be the cheapest way in to Perth. A train from Perth to Sydney is also available. This is the Indian Pacific trans-continental railway and will also go through the places- Broken hill, Adelaide and Kalgoorlie. This whole journey will take three nights and four days and is regarded as the greatest journeys of the world and is not at all cheap. For international visitors the Great Southern Railway will work. Although there are no regular coach services available for Perth but road lovers can travel by road through their cars from Perth and Adelaide.

Specialties of Perth:

swan-river

A nature’s gift that flows through Perth is the Swan River. This beautiful river covers an area of 121,000 km2. The three major rivers that contribute to the Swan River are Helena River, Canning River and Avon River. Among these three rivers Avon River contributes the most. Two dams, namely Mundaring Weir and Canning Dam, are situated on this river and are responsible for providing fresh portable water to surrounding regions.

kings park

Next specialty of Perth is the Kings Park and Botanic Garden, situated just adjacent to the Swan River. About six million people visit this garden every year to witness its marvelous beauty. The unique bush-land, botanic garden, tranquil parkland and its unforgettable essence make this place the most popular one in Western Australia.  A number of gardens, playgrounds for children, cafes, bushwalks and some other services are offered to the visitors.  There are 80 species of birds and even 319 native plant species available in this garden. The park is balanced with some recreational open areas and cultivated gardens. With huge collection of flora this place is a perfect spot for pleasant walks, picnic and even ceremonial events. During nights the magnificent sight of the Perth Skyline is popular among couples.

aviation

The Aviation Heritage Museum is the next must visit place of Perth. It is situated in the hamlet of Bull Creek, Perth. This iconic museum is being maintained by an association- RAAF association, Western Australia. This museum is a home to many civilian and military aircrafts; their replicas and even their engines. These aircrafts are the ones that once belonged to the Royal Australian Air Force or that are relevant to Aviation. There are various categories of exhibits that are on display in the museum. The aircrafts that are on display are Avro Lancaster B VII NX622, Auster J-5 Advanturer, CAC Wirraway, De Havilland DH-82 Tiger Moth and many more. Names of the aircraft replicas are Sopwith Camel, Bede BD-5, Bristol Tourer, Sandhawk missile & launcher, etc. Some engines are Balckburne Tomtit, Armstrong Siddeley Genet Major & Minor, Rolls Royce Avon, etc.

orchestra

Another famous place in Perth is the West Australian Symphony Orchestra (WASO). This orchestra generally organizes its concerts at the Perth Concert Hall.  Sometimes they also perform some shows at the Mandurah Performing Arts Centre, Mandurah. . This orchestra group was formed in the year 1932 and from then the contract of this orchestra has been in various hands. In May 2007, Paul Daniel took the contract and its tenure concluded in 2013. After that Asher Fisch was appointed as its principal conductor and he is still the principal conductor of this orchestra. There are 79 members in this orchestra that are full time musicians. They own an affiliated and legal WASO Chorus. They are among the most famous and recognizable orchestras of Western Australia. They held about 170 performances over the years in the entire state

Despite of the small inhabitants, Perth is unexpectedly very much diverse culturally. People are good to interact with. Perth has immigrants from Thailand, South Africa and even Malaysia. Thus, there is a full chance to interact with people from different areas and know their culture. People, who wish to incident a cosmopolitan culture and fresh environment without any hustle and bustle of big metropolitan cities, should visit Perth.

Underground Tunnels, Durgapur, India



Underground Tunnels, Durgapur, India

Durgapur is an industrial town in the state of West Bengal, India. Today it is dominated by the chimneys of industries alright, but it has not always been so. The mighty river Damodar has played an important part in its history. Durgapur in fact was home to dense forests along its fringes, called the Garh forest. Mentioned in the Puranas ( ancient Hindu Scriptures), the Garh forests are one of the oldest known lands in India. It is believed that it was in the depths of the Garh forest that the tradition of worshiping Goddess Durga, the deity of power started (and hence the name, Durgapur).

The town is strewn with remnants of its rich and varied historic legacy. Some fascinating noteworthy structures include the ones related to noted dacoit leaders Bhabani Pathak and Ichchai Ghosh. Back when India was under the British rule and common villagers were exploited, there grew scattered gangs of dacoits and looters around Bengal. They were bands of outcasts and operated with primitive weapons and waylaid vehicles carrying taxes to the British coffers. They took cover in the dense forests of the local areas which the foreign soldiers were clueless about. Some of these gang leaders were revered by common villagers for whom they were a Robin Hood like figure (they looted the rich people and distributed the loot among the poor villagers, in essence). There is historical documentation of these gangs running their own parallel government in pockets around the country. Villagers resorted to these local justice bodies for settlement in case of conflict. One man’s terrorist, after all, is unfailingly another’s freedom fighter.

The historic figure of Bhabani Pathak was a well educated Brahmin Scholar learned in the scriptures and martial arts. He strategically led his gang of loyal supporters to successfully lead several campaigns against the British. His protegee Devi Choudhurani overtook the reigns of his gang after his death. Now, the duo of Bhabani Patahk and Devi Choudhurani were wanted by the British Police of that time, however they managed to elude the Police because of the existence of a network of tunnels that helped them escape. These tunnels started from a place called ‘Bhabani Pathaker Tilla’ (the present site for the Science and Energy Park constructed by the Durgapur Nagar Nigam) and extended as far as the banks of the  mighty Damodar River.

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Though the historical existence of the characters of Bhabani Pathak and Devi Choudhurani can be proved through contemporary Police Records, further documentation is not available. This lack of information had been fully exploited by the Bengali Litterateur Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay who popularised their story (with ample amount of creative liberty taken to weave their personal stories)  in his acclaimed novel ‘Devi Choudhurani’. A bengali film  (with the same name) based on the same novel has also been made subsequently.

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Architecture and other Essential Information

How to reach?

Durgapur is well connected by roads and rails. It is about three hours away from Kolkata, the capital city of West Bengal. Buses ply in the route between Kolkata and Durgapur at an interval of 15 mins from 6am to 6 pm every day. The entrance of the tunnels is situated barely a 20 minute walk away from the City Centre Bus stand. There are a number of hotels and restaurants located in the area and hence fooding and lodging should not pose a huge challenge.

A stone’s throw away from the entrance to the tunnels is located a two hundred year old Kali Temple where according to legends, the dacoit gang used to worship the Goddess Kali before setting out for any operation. The ancient temple has been reconstructed with donations from ardent devotees and is still in active worship. The ambiance of the temple is extremely serene and uplifting.

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Architecture

Archaeological studies have conclusively proved that the said network of underground tunnels had been constructed in the Seventeenth century (in the later part of the Mughal Era) in a style comparable to the Roman style of architecture. The stone blocks used for construction had carved joints and rivets and were further held together by indigenous mixtures of sand and limestone. They had been used for supplying water and also to dispose off extra water in the area prior to serving as an exit plan for the dacoits.

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Unfortunately, the said piece of heritage had been lying in neglect for years. Finally in 2009 restoration efforts taken by the Durgapur Nagar Nigam bore fruits and the tunnels were reconstructed to their earlier fascinating states. As seen from the entrances, the tunnels are quite narrow allowing a single person to pass with difficulty. Due to the dangers involved, the tunnels are now inaccessible to the public. However one can admire the entrance itself, which is actually quite fascinating and can be seen proudly proclaiming its presence as a relic of an era gone by.

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History, they say, has a way of revealing itself. It is not astounding, thus that a network of underground tunnels located in an industrial town otherwise known by the tonnage of annual steel production can transport you to a period long forgotten.

Marrakech: The Red City



Marrakech: The Red City

Marrakech is the 3rd largest imperial city of Morocco. The name Marrakech was derived from the Amazigh words- ‘mur’ and ‘ankush’, meaning ‘land of god’.  The city is situated near the popular Atlas Mountains and is at some distance from the Sahara Desert. The whole city is divided into two separate parts. First one is Medina which is the historical city of Marrakech and the other part is Gueliz (also known by the name Ville Nouvelle) which is the new modern district. Medina is full of narrow passageways and some local shops whereas Gueliz has some charming restaurants, tasty food shops and huge brand stores. The contrasting landscapes and the perfect location of Marrakech make it one of the desirable destinations for tourists.

Get in to Marrakech:

marrakech

You can reach Marrakech by plane. There are plenty of direct flights which are scheduled from London. Flights from all over Europe are available for tourists. Tourists from Canada, US and Asia have to change flights in Casablanca to reach Marrakech. There are no direct flights from these countries. There are many low cost companies also which fly to Marrakech. For those who don’t want to purchase flight tickets can travel by train or bus. There is a train station in the Gueliz district of Marrakech. There are regular trains that run through Casablanca and Marrakech. Moreover there are many bus companies like Supratours, Pullman du sud and CTM that serve Marrakech along with other cities.

Must See Sights:

Morroco_Djemaa_el_Fna

There are plenty of sights in Marrakech. A whole day can spend wandering around on foot in Marrakech. Apart from some amazing museums, there are many architectural and historical sites in Marrakech. The main highlight of Marrakech is Djemaa El-Fna. This is the most active square of Marrakech. You will find many dancers, musicians, story tellers and even many tattoo girls who will convince you to get a henna tattoo on your body. The magical shouts and drum beats are enjoyable. Along with some common stalls, there will be some monkey shows and shows of snake charmers. You can pay them some money for their efforts if you wish to.

Just adjacent to this Djemaa El-Fna there is the famous markets of Marrakech, popularly known by the name “The Souks”. Almost everything is available at this place. From tagines to tea pots, from shoes to jellabas and many, many more things. Bargain as much as possible. Don’t let them taking advantage of you being a foreigner.

majorelle-garden-marrakesh

One of the most expensive attractions of Marrakech is the Majorelle Gardens which is in the Gueliz district. People usually like to visit this quite place to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city. There is an excellent collection of flora including every species of cactus from every portion of the globe. There is also the well-known Berber Museum. There is a café also, Majorelle Café, with a pretty garden to chill and have a drink. There is a special gift shop also with a huge anthology of period photographs.

Another place with a touch of the 19th century is the El Bahia Palace. This ornate palace is very beautiful and offers guided tours through the palace to people but tour charges apply to everyone. This palace is also popular because of stray cats.  Adding to its glorious beauty there is a stunning garden decorated with lovely plants, banana flowers and even tranquil courtyards.

Koutoubia Mosque, Marrakech, Morocco

Next must visit place of Marrakech is the Koutoubia Mosque which is situated right next to Djemaa El-Fna. The significance of minaret to Koutoubia is as much as the Eiffel Tower is significant to Paris. The Minaret is separated from the Medina by the Avenue Mohammed V and is clearly observable from Gueliz. The sight of the Mosque is beautiful at night as it is strikingly lit at night. As it is a Mosque for the Muslims, people belonging to non-Muslim communities are not allowed to enter the mosque.

Dar Si Said Museum is very famous among the people of Marrakeh. The museum is differently built by various artifacts of different ages and is committed to the Moroccan craft industry popular for wood. The whole museum is decorated with musical instruments, some weapons and wood carvings. Ceramics, carpets, pottery and clothing are among the regional collections. This huge collection comes from the south cities- Tafilal, Anti Atlas, High Atlas, Bani, Soussthe and Tensift.

Saadian-Tombs-Marrakech2

Another place which adds shine to the architectural glory of Marrakech is the Saadian Tomb. The tombs were discovered after the beginning of the 20th century. Saadian Tombs were built during the times of the Saadian rulers and were preserved in a perfect way as they were during that time. The tombs were not even touched by the destroyers mainly because of superstitious reasons. It was being said that the tombs were left untouched for almost hundred years as their entrances were blocked. But now the tombs are open for visitors. Inside the tombs you will find many Morrocan Tiles (Zelij) along with remarkable decorations. The tombs of Christians and Jews are popular among people; do not forget to look for them.

There are many other must visit places like El Badi Palace, the Menara gardens, Ben Youssef Madrassa and Tannaeries also. All these places make Marrakeh the most active and the dancing city of Morroco. The days of roaming around in this city will definitely be in the list of your unforgettable days.

Wonderful Swiss Experience: Wengen



Wonderful Swiss Experience: Wengen

Located in Bernese Oberland in Switzerland is the village of Wengen. This extremely picturesque village offers some breath taking views of the abundant natural beauty imbued in this place and its surroundings. Situated in the lap of the Jungfrau Mountain Range and within a visible distance of Lauterbrunnen Valley, Wengen’s natural splendors are bound to leave a vivid impression in the mind of all visitors. Surrounded by the snow capped mountain peaks, crystal clear likes, magnificent waterfalls, and lush carpets of greenery, Wengen and its surroundings are a nature lover’s paradise. Not just that the facilities for winter adventure sports available in Wengen are internationally famous.

Mountain Railway

To reach Wengen, a car free village, the only means of commuting is through train ride that is easily available from Lauterbrunnen. Other nearby places too can be reached through the means of trains. The railway lines snaking through the mountains provide a mesmerizing traveling experience, with brilliant views of the Alpine landscapes stretching as far as eyes can see, interspersed with charming villages. A visit to and stay in Wengen exploring its many offerings allows any traveler to experience Switzerland’s unsurpassed beauty.

Skiing in Wengen

Wengen is an absolute delight for those who are enthusiastic about winter sports. With the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau mountains standing nearby, it provides an array of apt locations for such sporting activities as skiing and snowboarding among others. The snow covered mountain ranges around Wengen are also internationally recognized as they host the famous Lauberhorn Ski Races. Places like Maennlichen, Schilthorn to name a few are located within easy distance of Wengen, and provide spectacular conditions and facilities to indulge in some adrenaline inducing sports. Besides the usual snowboarding, there are also opportunities for sledging, ski lift, and mountain biking among other things. The hiking trails within these mountains, covered with pristine ivory snow in winter, and vibrant wilderness in summers also make up for an invigorating activity in addition to providing some truly unforgettable sights.

Main Street, Wengen

The whole village of Wengen provides one with a sense of stepping into a different world all together. The gift shops, cafes, and many other knickknack shops line the main street of the village of Wengen. Besides the snow covered mountains of the Jungfrau Range and others, stunning vistas of Lauterbrunnen village, Alpine lush greenery, Wengen also provides clear views of valleys surrounding it. The rustic feel, carnival like atmosphere in the main lanes lined by shops, the car free streets, the profusely rich natural surroundings, the walkways laden with scenic views all add up to provide a fairy tale like setting.

Giessbach Falls

The beautiful natural sites in and around Wengen are bound to impress all visitors. There are many waterfalls which prove to be impressive natural specimens. The Trummelbach Falls for instance are a glacier fall, whose water cascades down into the valleys from a great distance. It is a popular tourist destination, and an amazing view. Among others the most popular are the Giessbach Waterfalls. Here from fourteen different pathways, the water falls into Lake Brienz. It makes up for beautiful surroundings to take a cruise in.

Alpine views, Wengen

Many neighboring places and villages are easily accessible from Wengen requiring within an hour or so of traveling time through the railways. The medieval looking town of Bern, Switzerland’s capital can be visited from here to. In more nearby and popular destinations are places like Spiez. Located on the banks of Lake Thun, this quaint and sleepy town has a castle and other ancient structures dating as far back as 11th century.

Interlaken

Interlaken is another very popular and equally spectacular place that is on all Wengen travelers’ must visit list. Situated a 20 min train ride from Wengen, amongst the lakes Thun and Brienz, this town is located in the middle of the Swiss Alps. The pristine waters of these lakes, splendid waterfalls, mountains in the backdrop, cruises organized in an extremely picturesque setting, all of these make a visit to Interlaken a sensory delight. Blausee or the Blue Lake in Frutigland is also worth visiting. The turquoise waters, green Alps, and rowing boat trips in such a scenic environs make up for a memorable traveling experience.

Jungfrau

Jungfraujoch, at a height of 3454m, this peak boasts of having Europe’s highest railway station. The various adventure sports activities organized here, together with such offerings as Ice Palace and Sphinx Observation Hall make it a worthwhile place. Besides these activities the view from atop here is truly spectacular. Those interested in mountainous excursions should not miss out on Schilthorn either. One of the oldest revolving restaurants is found here at an approximate height of 3000m. The breath taking views of the Alps, and the snow sheathed landscapes make it a truly memorable place.

Wengen, Cable Cars

Maennlichen is another mountainous offering of Wengen. The cable car ride from Wengen to Maennlichen lasts some ten minutes and transports you some 1000m. In summers it is a popular area for hiking enthusiasts, providing some easy as well as demanding trails, all with their own overflowing beauty. The Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau mountains, in addition to Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen can be seen from here, making the panorama extremely rich and eye pleasing.

Chalets

There are accommodations available for tourists in all budget brackets in Wengen. But to have an unforgettable and authentic Alpine Swiss experience, stay in the chalets made available for rent.  These wooden houses located in stunning natural surroundings, with some equally stunning sights in night as well as day; add some extra charm to your Swiss sojourn. Overall a trip to Wengen makes up for an enchanting journey.

Cherry Blossom Street, Bonn, Germany



Cherry Blossom Street, Bonn, Germany

Nature is a wonderful artist. Throughout the world sometimes mundane and otherwise ordinary things come together to create something so striking and beautiful that beholders have no other option but to stand and stare. One specimen of this phenomenon can be observed every spring in the stunning Cherry Blossom Street (locally known as Heerstraße ) in the old town of Bonn, Germany.

Bonn is a quaint little town in Germany that has he proverbial old world charm about it. The cobbled stone pathways, streets shaded with pink cherry blossoms, old houses and a characteristic old world feel make this place a warm destination. Bonn used to be the old capital of Western Germany and hence one can conclude without mistake that the town is rich in historic legacy. Moreover it is from this town in Germany that the Musical Genius Beethoven hailed. The three storied house from where hailed Beethoven is open for public view and visitors from distant parts come here to pay their tributes to the Maestro. One can opt for a traditional German meal at the Bonn market square for an authentic culinary experience.

The thing about Bonn is its tranquility that pervades the spirit of everyone in the town. It has Neo Classical style buildings with colourful facades lining the streets. The city is immaculately maintained and that adds to its charm. Bonn sits on the Rhine River and  is about 30 minutes by train south of Cologne. Bonn is much smaller in area than Cologne and is home to about thirty thousand people. The old town is called Alstadt and can be navigated on foot.

Bonn is in its natural best in the spring season when the overwhelming number of Cherry Blossoms lining the city streets are in full bloom. Cherry Blossoms are beautiful pink blossoms that have a soft exuberant presence about them. The Japanese cherry blossom is called Sakura. When the blue of the sky plays peekaboo with a thick cover of pink-purple cherry blossoms in full bloom, it is a wonderful sight. It is astounding how nature and man made architecture can beautifully blend in together to create visual poetry, the beauty of which can hardly be justified with words.

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Thus if you want to get away for a spring weekend from the daily worries of routine life, the Cherry Blossoms of Bonn are calling you. Every Spring the cherry blossoms are in bloom for three weeks. Hence if you want to catch the beautiful spectacle you have to make sure that your visit is within this small window. A thing of beauty, after all, is indeed fleeting in nature.

The Cherry Blossom Street : In the Pink of Bloom

A cherry blossom is the flower of any of several trees of genus Prunus, particularly the Japanese Cherry, Prunus serrulata, which is sometimes also known as  sakura. A Cherry Blossom plays important roles in Japanese and German traditions and is an important motif even in popular contemporary culture (Japanese Manga art and anime, for instance). Every spring, the ‘Cherry Blossom’ season is celebrated for its beauty with people heading out for picnics in the shade of cherry blossom trees. Many of the varieties of cherry blossom that have been cultivated for ornamental use do not produce fruit. Edible cherries generally come from cultivars of the related species Prunus avium and Prunus cerasus. The cherry blossom is a major tourist attraction in Germany’s Altes Land orchard region.

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Well in Bonn, the Heerstraße Avenue is transformed into a romantic pink tunnel for three weeks every spring when thousands of Cherry Blossoms burst into full bloom together. To say that the sight is beautiful will be an understatement. The pretty streetlights, the immaculate buildings and the brilliance of the blossoms together weave a magical spectacle. Scores of photographers flock to the place during this time to photograph the pretty town in all its glory. The task of photographing might get a little daunting with the crow of streetcars that ply on and are parked on either side of the street. But, then, perseverance is awarded with fruitful results. The street stays alive and a walk down the avenue is a memory to cherish. Charming cafes on the street add to the appeal of the already pleasurable prospects. You can sit with German tea and cakes taring into the pretty blossoms that transport you to a magical world of your thoughts.

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At the intersection of Heerstraße and Im Krausfeld sits an old German brew house Bierhaus Machold with a wide selection of brews to choose from. At the intersection stands with pride a reconstruction of an old Roman Milestone. The stone pillar stands as a witness to Bonn’s transformation through the ages. It has stories of its own and a look at this pillar itself will make your trip to Bonn worth it. It is sad however that graffiti and vandalism has found its way to the otherwise fascinating inscriptions on the milestone.

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To conclude, one must simply infer that the dainty beauty of cherry blossoms and the ephemeral nature of its existence is equivocally expressed in the beauty of the streets of Bonn. Come here if you indeed appreciate all that is surreal and beautiful.

 

Mizoram-Beauty of the Northeast India



Mizoram-Beauty of the Northeast India

While one is lost exploring the beauty of Kashmir in the north and Kanyakumari in the south one often misses out on the beautiful northeast of the country. Mizoram is one such state located in the far northeast of the country. A part of the seven sister states, Mizoram shares border with the states of Tripura, Assam, Manipur and countries like Burma and Bangladesh. Aizawl is the capital of the state. Along with priceless natural scenery the place offers you a beautiful moderate climate during the summers and winters and if you are feeling brave you can visit it during the Monsoons.

To get to Mizoram you will be required to present an Inner Line Permit. This permit can be obtained from the Mizoram House in Delhi, Kolkata and Silchar. Mizoram has one airport named Lengpui airport which is close to Aizawl. You can reach it ether from Kolkata or Guwahati. After reaching the airport you can hitch a taxi to get to the city. If you feel like having a road trip you can take National Highway No. 54 from Silchar, Assam. Getting around the cities is also pretty convenient. The best way would be to rent a car. You can also book a taxi or have bumpy rides in buses and TATA Sumo all day long.

Once you are in Mizoram there are a lot of things to keep your senses occupied and to explore the culture and beauty of the state:

Blue Mountain Park

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The Blue Mountain Park is very popular among the tourists. The park exposes you to both wildlife and adventure. The park is strategically located on a hill amidst true natural beauty. So there is a tedious but thrilling trek awaiting you. The locals believe the mountain to be an abode of gods. Apart from the spectacular natural scenery there is also a diversity of wildlife in the park.

Chapchar Kut Spring Festival

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If you are looking to learn about the culture and traditions of the people of Mizoram then the Chapchar Kut Spring Festival is the best opportunity for you. The Chapchar Kut festival is the oldest festival of Mizoram. The festival is celebrated to mark the arrival of the cropping season. Bamboo trees are cut in order to make land for seasonal crops. Colourful traditional dresses are worn for the occasion. Hats are made out of feather of parrots and beads. A traditional bamboo dance is performed by the women while men sit on the ground and beat the bamboos against each other. The festival goes on for a period of five days.

Vantawng Falls

Located at a height of 750 ft. above the ground, Vantawng Falls is a beautiful example of what Mizoram has to offer in terms of picturesque natural scenery. People pour in to feast their eyes at this stream plummeting into lush green bamboo groves. The waterfall has a sort of artistic expression to it. It is located at a distance of 137 kms from the capital city of Aizawl. Your trip to Mizoram can’t be complete without witnessing Vantawng Falls.

Dampa Tiger Reserve

Dampa Tiger Reserve is the largest tiger reserve in the state of Mizoram. It is spread over an area of 550 sq. km. The place is rich in flora and fauna with a vast number of tigers and other animals such as wild boars, Indian elephants and Himalayan Black Bear.

Mizoram State Museum

The Mizoram State Museum offers a great opportunity to explore about Mizo culture. It is located up a steep lane past Aizawl’s distinct church with modernist bell-tower spire.

KV Paradise

KV Paradise

A three storey mausoleum dedicated to the memory of Varte, KV Paradise offers a beautiful view of Aizawl. Varte’s husband spent his entire savings and energy to develop this beautiful place in memory of his wife.

Salvation Army Temple

The Salvation Army Temple is known for its bell chimes that can be heard all over the city. The sound of the bell is prominent on a Sunday church morning.

Cuisine

Mizoram introduces to an entirely new style of cooking unlike anywhere else in India. The cuisine of Mizoram is mainly about non-vegetarian dishes. Though vegetarian food is an integral part of the culinary culture of Mizoram, a non-vegetarian flavour is added to every dish. The staple food is primarily rice. The most popular non-vegetarian item is fish. The people of Mizoram make a point to avoid using too much oil in their delicacies and hence most of their food is cooked in very less oil. One must try ‘Bai’ while one is in Mizoram. It is basically a non-vegetarian dishes prepared with boiled vegetables and adding pork, spinach and bamboo shoots to it. Other dishes to try out are ‘Vaska Rep’ which is smoked pork, Arsa Buchair is a rice and chicken dish and Sawchair which is a traditional rice dish served with chicken or pork. Among drinks one should try Lubrusca grape wine and a popular form of tea called Zu. A good restaurant to try is David’s Kitchen.

Shopping

For a proper Mizo shopping experience visit the Saturday street market. The streets are covered by women selling fruits, dead pigs and living hens.

Mizoram gives you a taste of the culture of the Northeast which is unlike the rest of India.

 

 

Osaka: The Venice of Japan



Osaka: The Venice of Japan

The third most populous city of Japan (after Tokyo and Yokohama) is Osaka and is a very large metropolitan area located in the Kansai region in Honshu, which is the most important island of japan. It is geographically located at the mouth of river Yodo on Osaka Bay. The city can be accessed by water, by roads, rails and by air. Thus, Osaka is one the commercial centres of Japan and places an important role in Japan’s economy. For those visiting Japan, Osaka is must visit.

How to Reach Osaka?

The nearest international airport to Osaka is the Kansai International Airport. From there, you have domestic flights to Osaka International Airport or Itami Airport which will take you to Osaka monorail. But that will be expensive and the better option is to choose from the two railways that run till inside the city – JR West’s Kansai Airport Line and Nankai Electric Railway. If you enjoy the railway journey and want to take a train, then there are Takaido and Sanyo Shinkansen trains that will take you to the Shin-Osaka station which will connect to the main city through Midosuji subway.

Get around in Osaka:

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When you are in Osaka and you want to travel from one destination to another, there are the best plans arranged by the city for you. There are Kansai Travel Passes which are used for those who want to explore Osaka and Kansai region. Some other tickets that will be useful for you are ICOCA smart card for rail and subways, Unlimited Kintetsu Rail Pass valid for five days providing unlimited travelling by rail, Wide Kintetsu Rail pass, Osaka unlimited pass, Osaka one day pass, etc. These passes and their privileges are restricted in certain regions and boundaries. Another choice is to use the subway system. After Tokyo, the subway system of Osaka is the most extensive network in Japan. The subway system is mostly built underground in the city to get around at any landmark in the city.

The monument speaking of History: Osaka Castle:

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The Osaka castle is the best sight in whole city. It was built under of the Hideyoshi Toyotomi some years after 600 AD. Some rocks and foundations which dated 643 AD were recreated by using concrete. The castle that is seen today is not what it used to look like back then. It is not the same historic monument that you might expect to see. Instead, it is more modern with all the concrete rework done on the castle. It has been burnt and rebuilt many times. It was declared as the Special Historical Site in 1955 by the Japanese government. There is a park around the castle which is also equally popular among tourists. When you visit the castle in the cherry blossom season, the view from outside is pretty awesome and amazing beautiful.

Universal Studios Japan:

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The second largest theme park in Japan is the Universal Studios Japan. In the Category of the Movie-themed Park, it is the biggest in the world. Here, a lot of movies and their heroes are recreated to form exciting rides, attractions and also there are many live Hollywood shows. You can find a lot of your favorite movies like the Terminator, Shrek, Jurassic Park, Spiderman, Back to the future, Snoopy, etc. in the park. You can have dubbing over your most loved character from some movie. This is very exciting even for locals and for the tourists.

The Tower reaching Heaven:

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The Tsutenkaku tower of Japan symbolizes the modern architecture in Osaka. Originally, this tower was made and designed after the very famous Eiffel Tower in the year 1912. But during the World War II, it was torn down and rebuilt in 1956. The present tower has a height of 103 meters. The tower is one of its kinds. The clock of this tower is the biggest clock of this type in the entire country of Japan. Also, the Tsutenkaku Tower is the first building to implement round elevators in the world. There are bands of lights on the top of the tower which are in fact a weather forecast system; the residents will know the expected weather of coming day by the color of the band that falls over their residency. All these features of the tower make it one unique attraction and pride of Osaka as well as of Japan.

Like America:

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Amerikamura or ‘Ame-mura’ (Meaning: American Village) is the area in Osaka which is dedicated to entertainment. This is located in the Minami District of Osaka and is a very famous spot for locals and visitors. There are many retailers in the area and it is, therefore, the fashion street and hangout centre for Japanese youth and they have nicknamed the area as the “Little America”. There are many night clubs and shops in the area that are visited by the tourists as well as the Japanese.

Apart from the above mentioned places, the Osaka city is full of attractions and tourist places. There is the Osaka Science Museum and Osaka Museum of History which are the great places to take your kids and also you yourself can learn about the history and science of Osaka. There are a lot of places for the visitors and the classic Japanese food is at its best here in Osaka.

Udaipur- Venice of the East



Udaipur- Venice of the East

Udaipur is one of the most beautiful cities in the Aravalli ranges of Rajasthan. It is the second most visited tourist destination in Rajasthan after Jaipur. Due to its many beautiful and exquisite lakes it is often called “the city of lakes”. It is rated as the most romantic city of India. People from all around the globe visit Udaipur. It is also famous for its rich palaces showcasing its royal Rajputana culture. It was the historic capital of the kingdom of Mewar ruled by the Sisodia Clan of Rajputs.  It is situated in the southern Rajasthan and is close to the state of Gujarat. It is the abode of five famous and beautiful lakes. It is very easy for the tourists to get there. It is easily accessible and is well connected by air, train and road routes. It has direct flights from major cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Jaipur daily. Famous tourist luxurious trains like ‘The Palace on Wheels’, ‘Royal Rajasthan on Wheels’ and ‘The Maharaja Express’ make their stop in Udaipur. They are one of the most lavish and opulent trains of the world. Udaipur is a city drenched in romance and beauty.

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One of the famous landmarks of the city is ‘The City Palace’ of Udaipur. It was built by Maharana Udai Singh and is a complex of palaces with many palaces built in it. It is built on the east bank of Lake Pichola on a hill top which gives a splendid view of the other surrounding temples and palaces. It is a remarkable blend of Rajasthani and Mughal architectural style. Many other historic tourist places like ‘The Lake Palace’, ‘Jag Mandir’, ‘Jagdish Temple’, etc. surround it and add to its beauty. It is a favourite spot of many film makers. The publicity given to it by them had caused the city of Udaipur to be named as “Venice of the East”. The palace is famous not just for its beauty and splendour but also its historic significance. It is decorated with antiques, paintings and beautiful furniture fit for royalty. The guest houses of the palace like ‘The Shiv Niwas Palace’ and ‘The Fateh Prakash Palace’ has now been converted to rich heritage hotels to boost tourism.

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Among other royal palaces of Udaipur is ‘The Lake Palace’ which was built of white marble and is now a five star luxury hotel under the banner of ‘Taj Hotel Resorts and Banners’. It is located in the Jag Niwas Island of the Pichola Lake and is voted as the world’s most romantic hotel. The palace is so beautiful that one can’t believe his own eyes. It looks like a luminous marble structure floating in the lake. Jag Mandir is also a palace built on the island of Lake Pichola. It is also known as ‘Great Garden Palace’. It is visible from the balconies of the City palace of Udaipur. It is adorned with structures of eight elephants on its entrance. The Jag Mandir and The Lake Palace were built together. It is famous for its historic significance as Shah Jahan took asylum in this palace when he revolted against his father. A separate palace known as Gul Mahal was built inside the Jag Mandir to house the Mughal prince. It has a crescent of Islam on top of one of its dome.

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Other famous attraction of Udaipur is the ‘Sajjan Garh Palace’, famously known as ‘The Monsoon Palace’ because it was built to keep an eye on the monsoon clouds. It is built of white marble, high on the Aravalli hills such that it overlooks all the lakes of the city. It looks beautiful in the evenings when the whole palace is illuminated with orange light. One can witness the most beautiful sunsets in the world from this palace. The palace looks like something straight out of a fairy tale. The palace is also famous for the Sajjan Garh Wildlife Sanctuary surrounding the palace. It was once the place for shooting and hunting for the royals but now had been converted into a wildlife sanctuary. It is famous for bird watching. The Monsoon palace also had reservoir for rain water harvesting so that there is no water shortage for the entire year. The most famous temple of Udaipur is ‘The Jagdish Temple’. It is a large Hindu temple built by Maharana Jagat Singh. It is a great specimen of Indo-Aryan architecture. Other famous temples include Sagasji Mandir near Gulab Bagh.

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Udaipur is not just famous for its palaces, lakes and garden but also its delicious, spicy Rajasthani cuisines. It offers number of Mewari vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes to enjoy. The most famous café of Udaipur is Café Edelweiss, popularly known as German Bakery. It is mostly crowded with foreigners. The famous Rajasthani food includes daal – baati churma and gatte ki sabzi. The Mewari dishes are all made with a unique style and are spicy to the tongue which makes it irresistible. There are many restaurants with affordable prices in the city. Even the local vendors and stalls could be found on every street and offer great snacks at a very cheap price.

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Udaipur is considered as the ‘Kashmir of Rajasthan’ and has rich historical and cultural heritage. The palaces of the city have been well preserved by the city officials and converted to heritage hotels. The city entertains thousands of tourists from all over the world every year. Its colourful festivals are enjoyed with all the heart and its exquisite palaces may take you straight to the Rajputana era. It is a must place to visit once in a lifetime.

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