Daily Archives: 11.03.2014

The S.S Ayrfield in Homebush Bay



The S.S Ayrfield in Homebush Bay

On the southern banks of the famous Parramatta River in Sydney, there is an exotic bay known by the name “Homebush Bay”. The name Homebush Bay usually includes the southern and the western areas of the bay. The region was once the official suburb of Sydney but now it has become the suburbs of Sydney Olympic Park in Wentworth Point. It is also a part of its surrounding suburb- Lidcombe. The central business district of Sydney has this place located 16 kilometres in the west which is the local government area in Auburn city. There are two separate suburbs- Homebush West and Homebush.

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The suburbs of Rhodes and of Homebush Bay share an artificial and a natural shoreline on the Parramatta River. The bay is said to be contaminated with some sorts of chemicals like dioxin and other chemicals that belong to Union Carbide group. Because of this reason the bay is banned for fishing for health reasons and some letters were issued by the health advisories to limit the amount of fish eaten by the people from the Parramatta River. DDT, some heavy metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, phthalates and even lead are the names of the other contaminants. But 75% of the Dioxin present in the bay was removed in the year 2008 when the river was remediated. The process of remediation was fully completed in the year 2010.

Landmarks and Transport:

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Bicentennial Park and Sydney Olympic Park are the main landmarks of Sydney. Since the Sydney Olympic Games, there have been huge development in the areas and even the buildings and apartments look new now. Another attraction is the Rhodes Shopping Centre which is a huge shopping mall on the eastern shore of the bay. There are two train stations that support the entire rail network of Sydney. The Olympic Park railway station was not very old and was built during the 2000 Sydney Olympics to gather large crowds during Olympics. This station is on the southwest side of Sydney. On the eastern side, the northern and western line and even the north shore are connected by the Rhodes railway station. People who wish to visit this place can travel through trains that pass through these two stations. When it comes to the bus services, there are a number of regular buses that supports the area around the bay. Special services are also provided in case of any major concert or event.

The Floating Forest of SS Ayrfield:

ss ayrfield

The whole area of Homebush Bay is a home to some ships that were decommissioned previously. The area was originally used as a ship-breaking yard. SS Ayrfield, SS Mortlake Bank, SS Heroic and HMAS Karangi are the names of the famous wrecks of Homebush Bay. But among them the most famous one is SS Ayrfield. The original name of SS Ayrfield was SS Corrimal. It was launched by the UK government in the year 1911 and it was registered as a part of Sydney in 1912. During World War II, the Commonwealth Government purchased this ship to use it for supplying goods to the American troops through the Pacific region. The whole ship was built with a steam collier and steel-hull with a single screw. The weight of the entire ship was 1140 tones and stands 79.1 meter high.

Its Journeys:

Ayrfield Shine

The well-known company of that time, the Bitumen and Oil Refineries Australia Private Ltd, purchased the ship in the year 1950. And in 1951, the company sold the ship to the famous Miller Steamship Company Ltd. The company renamed it to “SS Ayrfield”. The Miller Steamship Company used the ship as a collier between Miller and Newcastle terminals for many years in the Blackwattle Bay. In the black darkness of the night, the ship would drove in the Blackwattle Bay through the minor opening of the swing bridge of the Glebe Island. The ship has done many tremendous journeys in many tremendous environments of high and low tides for almost 20 years under the Miller Steamship Company.

Now At Homebush Bay:

wreck

On 6th of October 1972, Ayrfield got its name removed from the list and its registration was cancelled. The collier was quite old to carry things now. So the collier was sent to rest in the Homebush Bay. The order was to break-up the old ship. The shipwreck’s bow is lying pointing towards the shore of the Homebush Bay and its hull is very near to the mouth of Haslams Creek. The ship is just behind the Sydney Olympic Park via the Bennelong parkway. Today, the shipwreck is rusty but beautiful to look at. There is huge vegetation that has grown over its surface as the ship has been stuck in the quiet waters of the Homebush Bay without maintenance. As per the orders the ship was broken but its hall still lies floating on the waters.

Among all the Wrecks in Homebush Bay, the most impressive one is no doubt the SS Ayrfield which is a full mangrove swamp now. The dark water, the creepy shipwreck and the stormy skies provides a perfect photography set for viewers. This residential suburb of Homebush Bay offers an amazing recreational area, nice accommodation and a lifestyle that has a wonderful appeal. Thus to witness a pristine environment Homebush Bay is a must visit place.

Rotterdam – Manhattan of the Netherlands



Rotterdam – Manhattan of the Netherlands

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A city with one of the most fascinating tales of origins, Rotterdam is today one of the world’s largest and busiest economic centers with a skyline that could easily have it called “the Manhattan of Europe”. A city with the quality of ever changing itself with the times, whose citizens believe in being the best at what they do and an infrastructure that suits its modern attributes Rotterdam is one of the greatest cities of Europe. The city is one of the examples of modern architecture with its landscape being dominated by beautiful, modern day buildings which are representative of the nature of this city. The port at Rotterdam is today among the four largest ports and until recently was the busiest port in the world. Rotterdam is located geographically in an area of Europe which has helped it thrive so much economically and culturally and also helping it become a “gateway to Europe”.

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Rotterdam’s origins are unique it started out as a dam built on the River Rotte as the inhabitants of the region at the time of were tired of the constant flooding of the land due to the river. Human settlement started to form around the River Rotte meaning ‘muddy waters’ around 900 CE but all development in the region stopped due to heavy flooding from the river, this prompted the construction of the dam on the Rotte River or the ‘Rotterdam’ which was eventually built in 1260. Almost a century later in 1340, Rotterdam was granted city rights by the Count of Holland and thus marked the beginning of the historic rise of the city. Soon a port and shipping canal was built which gave the city access to much of Europe including Germany, England and allowed it to urbanize and flourish as a trade center.

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By the time 1872 came Rotterdam had already established itself as one of the busiest ports in Europe and was greatly influential in the success of the Dutch East India Company but its position was further enhanced with the building of the Neuwe Watreweg in the which spured economic growth like anything. The city and the harbor began to expand rapidly on the southern banks of the river with new American style offices coming around the business center of the city including a 45 meter building which was in 1898 the tallest office in Europe. Rotterdam faced great chances of extinction during the Second World War when the city was almost wiped out by the German Luftwaffe culminating in the famous bombings of 1940 known as the “Rotterdam Blitz”. After the finish of the war the city went into rapid urbanization and redevelopment which has given the city its current look and image of being one of the most daring architectural cities in the world.

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Rotterdam is a city which is full of live, purpose, motivations and drive being the economic center of Netherlands as well in Europe the city is a maker of dreams and fortunes. The landscape, the culture, the daring architecture all make this city one of the most fascinating places to visit in Europe. The city itself has a population of some 600,000 strong people but the combined area of Rotterdam and The Hague has a population of over two million people making the largest metropolitan area in the country. Getting into the city is very easy and hassle free due to the presence of the Rotterdam The Hague Airport which connects the city to the entire continent and the Rotterdam Centraal Station which connects the city through rails to the rest of the continent. Getting around in the city is very comfortable and cheap, lovers of bicycle will find the city very convenient like any other Dutch city. Public transport is also very well developed with choices in the form of metro, tram and buses which connect various points of the city one can get information about them at the helpline number of 9292.

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Rotterdam city is full of interesting sights and places for keeping one entertained through their visit. The city is full of wonderful museums which depicts the culture, history and unique terms of interest belonging to the Dutch culture some of the famous museums include Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen which was founded in 1849, Maritime Museum a must visit to learn about the maritime heritage of the city, Kunsthal and the Netherlands Architecture Institute. Rotterdam has always been big on culture which is one of the reasons it was voted the cultural capital of Europe along with Porto, the city has a very vibrant multi-cultural set up which is expressed in the various festivals held in the city such as the Summer Carnival, the Rotterdam International Film Festival, the Metropolis Pop Festival and many others. The city has a great nightlife with sprawling parties and night clubs. Being at Rotterdam one must visit the Euromast one of the tallest towers in Europe to have a panaromic view of the whole city, the City Hall which is one of its only remaining historic monuments and the famous windmills of which only seven remain out of which only De ster and De Lelie are open to visitors.

Visit the City of Pounding Winds: Baku, Azerbaijan



Visit the City of Pounding Winds: Baku, Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan flag, Baku

Located on the southern shore of Abs heron Peninsula, with territory covering over 2130 kilometers, Baku is capital of Azerbaijan and the largest city in the Caucasus. Baku’s name comes from Persian bad-kube meaning “the city of pounding winds”. The cold northern wind “khazri” and warm southern wind “gilavar” are typical here all year round. In addition, Baku is also known as the land of fire. Even the coat of arms of the city has three flames on it. The city is also famous for its trade and seaport. It has the largest port in Caspian Sea, the biggest lake in the world. This capital of Azerbaijan’s is the biggest commercial, industrial, cultural and scientific industry to the balance of payments of the Republic. Baku is located on the crossroads of West and East and formed by different cultural impacts and values. The uniqueness of the city, as well as the people who are traditionally friendly and hospitable, will not leave anyone indifferent.

Deepwater Gunashli platform

The basis of Baku’s economy is petroleum. The existence of petroleum has been known since the 8th century. Towards the end of 20th century, much of the land’s petroleum was exhausted and drilling has extended in the sea now. The World War II battle of Stalingrad was fought to determine who would have control of Baku oil fields. In recent years oil has made the city affluent again but Baku is still a conservative place.

How to get here?

 Баку

It is easy for travelers from Europe to make their way to Azerbaijan. There are frequent flights to Baku from Frankfurt, Kiev, Amsterdam, London, Moscow, St. Petersburg and Zurich. There are also flights out of Baku to several Russian cities at least once in a week and guess what no departure tax is levied. There is a train that runs between Tbilisi in Georgia and Baku. It is cheap but unsafe. Also you have to often pay the price of your ticket again at the border, this time as a bribe. So recommendation would be to take the bus instead. It costs same price but takes half the time and possibility of having the bribe the border guards is a whole lot less.

Places to visit.

 Heydar Aliyev Center

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 Zaha Hadid Architect’s light as air Heydar Aliyev Cultural Center in Baku seems to be all form and no structure but its swooping shapes reflect some extreme engineering. A very nimble two layer space frame plays supportive bridesmaid to double envelope that curves smoothly along the top and bottom of exterior shell, hiding the skeletal frame and emphasizing surface rather than structure, as though the building were all effect and no cause. You can’t miss it for sure.

Bay of Baku 

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The bay of Baku is bordered by Sultan Cape in the east, Shikh Cape on the south west and the islands of Qum, Dash Zira and Boyuk Zira in the south and south east. These islands are part of Baku Archipelago which lies mostly within the bay. The bay has an area of 50km and a coastline of 20km. You can take a Boat trip on the bay or on a yacht, depending on the number of persons. During the trip, the experienced guides tell the history of the Caspian Sea, its wealth and existing problems.

Azeri TV Tower

 Azerbaijan - GRIVEN lights up the Azeri TV tower of Baku

The Azeri TV Tower, built in 1996, is a free standing concrete telecommunications tower in Baku. With a height of 310 metres, it is the tallest structure in Azerbaijan and also tallest building in Caucasia. The tower has 29 floors. Landmark of the city of Baku, the tower is lit up by a wide selection of beautiful flood lights i.e. Dolomite, Everest, Colorado, Kolorstream  and Kolorjet. 75 of these mighty color changers have been strategically positioned in two concentric circles on the ground surrounding positioned in two concentric circles on the ground. The basement of the towers hosts the administration of the TV station. This place is a joy to watch.

Fountain Square

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Fountain Square is Baku’s most fashionable area, where you go to see and be seen. The Square is surrounded by sophisticated restaurants and shops. The long and often dry fountain serves as an endless bench for lazy afternoon and evenings.

The Boulevard

 Azerbaijan, Baku. Center of Baku City

It is a broad and shady pedestrian walkway which runs downtown along the edge of the Caspian Sea. It has very beautiful and neat gardens which are quite popular with people of all ages and favored by young couples. At its centre, just across Neftchilar avenue is the government house and the largest Soviet style hotels. Along the water there are numerous rides and amusements for children including a Ferris wheel which can provide some nice views.

Opera and Ballet Theatre

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The opera and Ballet Theatre is beautiful both inside and outside and has an interesting metal decoration on the façade and gilded interior. It was commissioned to architect N. Bayev by the Mayilov brothers. It is located on Nizami Street, behind the 26 commissars square. You can see high quality performances here with rather inexpensive tickets.

Nizami Museum of Literature

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The Nizami museum of Azeri Literature was originally built as a hotel. It is decorated with dark blue and turquoise majolica. Inside are the statues of outstanding Azeri winters of several periods like Fisuli, Vaghif, Mirza Fatali Akhundov etc. Its 23 rooms contain over 3000 exhibits illuminated manuscripts, calligraphic art, rare editions, photographs and films etc.

Shikhov Beach

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During the summer, some self styled entrepreneurs’ clean parts of the beach and charge and admission fee of a fee mantas. Many vendors offer assorted drinks and food. In the low season Shikhov is a good place for relaxing walks or some jogging on the sand.

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Many expert working oil industries are to be found around Baku, but tourists are still a bit rare sight. But this is a place which has the sites to satisfy you as a tourist.

Earthly Eden: Hvitserkur, North Iceland



Earthly Eden: Hvitserkur, North Iceland

 

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INTRODUCTION: The dragon, drinking water from the sea:

Hvitserkur is a rock, rising like a monster from the sea at Vatnsnes Peninsula in Northern Iceland. The 15 meters high (approximately 50 feet tall) rock assumes the shape of “a dragon, drinking water from the sea”. The fact that the tip of the rock remains covered with bird droppings has conceived its unique name which literally means “white shirt”. It is only a few distance away from the Suluvelir farm. One has to be however careful while crawling up and down the steep steps of the rock in order to reach the other side of the cliff; a beach adorned by gravel and pebble. The government of Iceland has introduced a stamp in the name of this beautiful natural asset of the country in the year 1990; the stamp has the monetary value of 25 crowns. The government has also taken serious initiatives in strengthening the foundation of the rock by concretizing it.

 

GEOGRAPHIC ORIGIN: Metamorphosis of a volcanic neck into a monstrous rock

The Hvitserkur rock is an igneous rock, naturally sculpted by sea erosion which gave it the shape of a solidified monster. Once a volcanic neck, the “dinosaur rock” (as coined by some photographers) was shaped as the craters were pulverized by the Atlantic Ocean, leaving only the Hvitserkur behind. The base of the Hvitserkur was however, concreted some years ago which assures its firmness, overlooking the sea with the pride of tolerance of years.

 

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THE INTERESTING MYTH: Giant turned into rock by light

According to the passed on stories, it is believed that the Hvitserkur was a huge giant who lived happily with his family in Mount Baejar in Strandir in Westfjords and had a son called Bardur. One day he woke up from a sound sleep, annoyed and disturbed, due to some loud noise. He expected the noise would stop within sometime but it did not happen; it increased rather. The giant was irritated by the unalarmed calamity as it hindered the comfort of his community and that too in the winter season which is believed to be the resting season of the monsters. Feeling the alarming gravity he decided to put an end to the turmoil some way or the other. Being confirmed that the origin of the sound was a huge bell, hanging on the other side of the Hunafloi (the famous Huna beach), he decided to demolish the very source and one fine night he set up his mission with Bardur. Day was approaching and they took the aid of large steps to reach the spot before dawn. But unfortunately, as the sun rose and Hvitserkur turned his head towards sunlight, he got transformed into stone. Sensing what was happening, the giant hurled his hammer towards the bell as a last try to his endeavor, which was located in a church at Thingeyrar, but in vain. The hammer can still be seen at the eastern part of Thingeyrarsand.

 

FLORA AND FAUNA: Abode to birds and seals

The rock is abode to many bird species especially the shag. To the south of the rock is the Signoarstaoir Lake where seals are often spotted. The base of the Hvitserkur, the Vatsnes peninsula is inhabitated by various wildlife species. It is one of the largest seal colonies of Iceland where seals have been under protection for a long time. A spectacular view of seals resting in sunlight can be witnessed on the opposite side of the peninsula. Besides birds and seals, jelly-fishes of various colours can also be seen there.

HOW TO GO THERE:

Having reached the airport, the Hvitserkur rock is accessible through roadways. The airports that are close to the sight are:
1) Isafjordur (IFJ): Isafjordur, Iceland (45.1 kms)
2) Patreksfjordur (PFJ): Patreksfjordur, Iceland (113.8 kms)
3) Siglufjordhur (SIJ): Siglufjordhur, Iceland (161.4 kms)4) Akureyri (AEY): Akureyri, Iceland (214.5 kms).
The exact location of the Hvitserkur rock is at the place called Hunafjorour, which is a part of a large bay, the Huna Bay (also called the Seal bay). There are probably two ways of reaching the magnificent natural artifact. The first one being a gravel road from the Hvammstangi town which is 197 kms from Reykjavík; and the second one, by taking the road no.:711, which joins a huge ring road circumscribing the island Hringvegur. The road no.:711, is very narrow and remains slippery owing to snowfall and rain. So avoiding such periods is permissible. Tides, both high and low, are worth watching.

 

Iceland 1990 Hvitserkur rock formation stamp

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHEN TO GO:

As stated earlier, the best time to reach out to the famous rock is summer. Rains and snowfalls should be completely avoided. The added advantage of visiting during such a time is getting to watch the tides dancing in rhythms as they strike the huge rock. During a low tide, one can take a stroll and reach out to the southern part of the rock which is the country’s one of the largest seal breeding ground.

 

 

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PLACES OF ACCOMODATION:

Various hotels and resorts are available. The Osar is a famous farmhouse turned hostel. It is thirty minutes (25 kms) to the north of the main ring road (i.e. highway no.:1).A few distance away from the hotel is the Huna bay. The hostel is 228 kms (2hrs 45 mins) from the famous city of Reykjavik. The opening times of the hostel are as follows:
1) Daily/weekly: 08:00hrs-22:00 hrs
2) Over the year: 1st of May – 1st of October

 

 

As it is said, to see is to believe; this natural gigantic rock is worth a watch!

Auckland: The City of Sails



Auckland: The City of Sails

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The AUCKLAND CITY  lies in the Northern islands of New Zealand. The city is the largest and most populous urban city in the whole country. Auckland has an urban population of 1,418,000 and the metropolitan population is 1,529,300 which indeed constitute of 32%and 34% of the country’s population. Auckland is the only city who has got the largest Polynesian population in the world.

In Maori, Auckland’s name is Tamaki Makaurau and the transliterated version is Akarana. Auckland lies between the Hauraki Gulf of Pacific Ocean to the east. Auckland is the most remote substantially populated city. The supreme part of the urban area of Auckland occupies the narrow isthmus between the Manukau Harbour on the Tasman Sea and the Waitemata Harbour on the Pacific Ocean. It is one of the few cities of the world to have two harbors  on two separate major bodies of water.

The 2011 Mercer Quality of Living Survey ranked Auckland 3rd place in the world on its record, while, in the Economist’s World’s most liveable cities  index it is at world’s 9th place. The land of Auckland was given to the Governor by local Maori, iwi Ngati Whatua, as a sign of good will and the hope that the building of this city would attract commercial and political opportunities for the iwi. In the year 1841, Auckland was officially declared New Zealand’s capital; however, in 1840 even Nicholson (later Wellington) was seen as a better choice for an administrative capital because of its proximity to the South Island and Wellington became the capital in 1865.

CLIMATE, CULTURE & RELIGION

Auckland city, Westhaven Marina and harbour view, Auckland, New Zealand

Auckland straddles the Auckland volcanic field which has produced about 50 volcanoes, Auckland’s volcanoes are fueled entirely by basaltic magma. It has a temperate climate with warm, humid summers and mild, damp winters, snowfall in Auckland is extremely rare.

Auckland is home to many cultures. The majority of inhabitants claim to be a European but nothing can be said about their true identity. Similar to rest of the country, over half of Aucklander’s profess Christianity, but less than 10% regularly attend church and about 40%profess no religious affiliation (2006 census figures). Auckland’s lifestyle is influenced by the fact that it is 70% in rural areas, 90% lives in urban areas.

HOW TO REACH THERE

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Auckland is mainly known by its nick name the “City of Sails”. The name was derived from the popularity of sailing in Auckland. 135,000 yachts and launches are registered in Auckland and around 60,500 of the country’s 149,900 registered yachtsmen are from Auckland, with about one in three Auckland households owning a boat.

Getting to Auckland by road is easy, whether you are travelling by car, coach, bus or motorcycle. Best of all things is the scenary along the way. Renting a vehicle is easy with car, motorhomes, campervans, bicycles or motorcycle.

Getting to Auckland by cruise ship, cruise pass the islands of the Hauraki Gulf and into the beautiful Waitemata Harbour  where you’ll dock right in downtown Auckland step off the ship and into a city full of wonderful things to see and to do. You can experience Auckland’s culture and history, do a lot of shopping, taste the local food with wine or hop on a day tour to explore. You can either choose to travel by rail and watch the beautiful scenery of New Zealand unfold. Or else fly into Australia’s 2nd largest airport, Auckland Airport, which is served by 18 international airlines, flying directly to Auckland from 32 destinations around the world. There’s also more than 300 daily flights to 20 cities around the country, making it easy for visitor’s travelling within New Zealand.

FAMOUS PLACES AND ATTRACTIONS OF THE CITY OF SAILS

1. Kelly Tarlton’s Underwater World
Auckland is a city that takes pride in marine life an harbor location, known as  the best underwater world around, without getting wet.  Kelly Tarlton’s Underwater World on Tamaki Drive. So, Be amazed after looking at the giant sharks, stingrays and the rich variety of species from New Zealand’s coastal waters.

2.  MOTAT – Museum of Transport and Technology
MOTAT is New Zealand’s largest transport and technology museum.  MOTAT will definitely take you on an interactive journey through many of the technological achievements that have helped shape New Zealand. It set on 40 acres of land.

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3.  Waiwera Thermal Spa Resort
Waiwera Thermal Spa Resort, 40 minutes north of central Auckland for a fun day out. Relax your muscles as well as your mind and soak up the warmth of the pools; even you can also take the kids down the hydra-slides. The Waiwera Thermal Resort attracts about 350 thousand visitors every year.

4.  Day trip to Waiheke Island

Waiheke-Island

This beautiful island is just 35 minutes from Auckland by a ferry and once you reach it, you will have so much to explore. Take a ferry from Half Moon Bay in East Auckland,a  long holiday or just a day trip. Once you have reached the island, have a picnic or visit the vineyards or take a walk through the ancient Stony Batter or take the kids to explore all the family-friendly beaches and attractions on offer.

5. SKYCITY Casino and entertainment complex
Located right in the heart of the city, and you  can’t miss this architectural masterpiece. Step inside and you will experience the glamour of a casino with a peppering  of New Zealand culture seen in the design of the building. The world-class casino of Auckland offers hours of entertainment, and there are many restaurants and bars to eat at. People must take a ride to the top and should witness the breathtaking 360 degree views. You can take a walk around the top of the pergola or the most daring people can choose the Sky Jump.

6. Auckland Zoo

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Auckland Zoo has New Zealand’s largest collection of animals and is recognized as one of the most progressive zoos in the world. It is a  home to 120 different species and over 750 animals.

7. Vineyards
Auckland has a variety of vineyards that are worth visiting if you enjoy the odd glass of wine, delicious food and a stunning setting. You can even join a wine tasting tour and can make a separate trip to one of the many vineyards in the city.
8.  Beaches 

The City of Sails has been a haven for all the beach-lovers. All year round people can enjoy the glorious sights and  walks at many of Auckland’s beaches.

9.  Cafes, restaurants and bars
Auckland’s cosmopolitan food offerings will keep you eating out for days on end. This city  has been a cultural melting spot for people  and the place whipped up into a selection of restaurants offering something for everyone.

Harpa Concert Hall And Conference Centre: Reykjavik, Iceland



Harpa Concert Hall And Conference Centre: Reykjavik, Iceland

harpa

More than almost any other country, Iceland is characterized by the elemental forces of nature. The island is situated slightly below the polar circle, has its fair share of barren volcano landscapes, boiling lakes and steam spraying geysers as well as huge glaciers. Until recently, the cosmopolitan capital of Reykjavik, the home of some 120,000 people, was hardly able to host any large scale cultural events. In August 2011, Harpa, the concert hall and conference centre was opened which proved to be a striking addition to the Icelandic and European cultural scene. Harpa is the place where the most important music and performances are united with an international conference centre. It offers a varied range of performances from classical to contemporary; the building is home to Iceland Opera and Reykjavik Big Band.

History

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Harpa was only half complete at the time of Icelandic economic crash in October 2008. A dream was set to come true for the Icelandic musical community with this building and finally a concert hall was finally going to rise in Iceland. However, the crash proved to be a little disastrous as it brought all construction to a standstill and the future of Harpa was thrown into complete uncertainty. But in early 2009, a daring decision was made to complete the building by the Icelandic government and in August 2011, Harpa’s doors were opened to the public. In its very first year, Harpa received over 1.7 million visitors and hosted over one thousand events.

How to get here?

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The Concert Hall and Conference Centre of 28000 m2 is situated in a solitary spot with a clear view of enormous sea and the mountains surrounding Reykjavik. The estimated flying time from London to Keflavik airport is 2.5 hours while New York to Keflavik takes 4-5 hours. It takes 40 minutes to drive from Keflavik International Airport to Reykjavik.

 The Façade

 Henning Larsen Architects . Studio Olafur Eliasson . Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre façade . Reykjavik

Harpa’s multi faceted glass façade is the outcome of a unique collaboration between Olafur Ellasson and Henning Larsen Architect. There is a geometric principle, realized in two and three dimensions which made the design possible. Reminiscent of the crystallized basalt columns commonly found in Iceland which helps in dramatically altering the transparency, reflectivity and colors of the façade as the weather and seasons change.

The Architecture

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There are four main halls in this 28,000 square metres building including a 1800 seat concert hall, several meeting rooms and spacious exhibition area. Harpa’s is a public place and is continued in the square in front of the building. The dark grey shade inside Harpa contrasts with the crystalline exterior which in turn merges Harpa with its surroundings and city life.

 The Halls

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Iceland’s natural landscape and cultural heritage inspired the names of Harpa’s individual halls. The names are intended to correspond to the four elements: water, air, fire and earth. Eldborg, the main concert hall, seats 1800 people. The glowing red interior is reminiscent of fire. The second hall Norsurljos, represents air and the name means ‘Northern Lights’. Representing the element earth, Harpa’s third hall is called Silfurberg, the name of a translucent calcite crystal that is rarely found outside Iceland. The fourth hall, Kaldalon, on the first floor translates as cold lagoon and was also the surname of one of Iceland’s most celebrated songwriters, Sigvaldi Kaldalons.

 Events and Conferences

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An impressive cast of celebrated musicians and cultural icons have performed here like Jamie Cullum, Bryan Ferry, Tony Bennett, the German Tenor Jonas Kaufman, the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra and many more. Harpa also hosts the Tectonics music festival, Dark music Days, The Jazz Festival and the Arts festival. Undercurrent is Harpa’s own concert series in the Kaldalon Hall which offers aspiring bands from the underground scene a chance to perform in Harpa.

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Among the wide variety of events held in Harpa have been Design march, the Reykjavik Fashion Festival, a presentation for the car manufacturer Citroen, international chess tournaments and the Icelandic Expo Pavilion which is a stunning 360 degree film previously shown at the World Expo in Shanghai.

Restaurants and Cafés

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Kolabrautin Restaurant, which is considered as Harpa’s flagship, is located on the fourth floor and offers dramatic views of both Reykjavik Harbour and surrounding city. It can seat up to 180 people. The view from Kolabrautin is Fascinating and adds a magical touch to your evening and ambitious wine list from the New World. Whether you just want to enjoy an aperitif before your meal or have drinks and snacks before or after your Harpa Event. This multi level bar prides itself on its exotic cocktails and was voted best cocktail bar of 2011 by Reykjavik Grapevine.

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Harpa is also home to Munnharpan, which is a bistro cum café cum bar, on the first floor which serves Danish/French inspired food as well as coffee, beverages and pastries during all day. It is also possible to pre order a light meal for your concert interval at Munnharpan.  There are also two shops located in Harpa, first is the Boutique design store, Epal on the first floor, featuring unique domestic items, furniture and design articles and gifts. There is also a record shop on the first level which offers a wide collection of music ranging from classical to rock.

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Due to its geographical location midway between North America and Europe, Iceland has a tremendous advantage when it comes to hosting conferences and meetings. Harpa Concert Hall is the hub here for such activities. It is a must visit place.

Of Red Indians and Carnivals – Mexico



Of Red Indians and Carnivals – Mexico

mexico beach

 

mexico beach

mexico beach

 

One of the most beautiful peninsular regions the Earth has ever flaunted includes Mexico. The country with a population of about 112 million has a unique charm of its own. With the wondrous Aztec architectures and its notorious reputation this place can take your heart away at a glance. In spite of Mexico being infamous for the drug dealing that hurt its economy in the recent past; it has now evolved into one of the most popular tourist destinations of the world. A place with the most sundry climate throughout the year, it is the ultimate destination to sooth your soul and party at the same time. Sounds like the perfect place after a long nagging routine session of the job that offers you limited holidays, doesn’t it? So let me take you on a journey through a few things that you don’t want to miss out when in Mexico.

Carnavales de confeti y serpentine (Carnival of confetti and streamers)

 CarnavalNica

If you are an outgoing person and really love street parties and some hip shaking  music, then this carnival country is meant for you. The two major carnivals that  are organized in Mexico are in Mazatlan and Veracruz. ‘Carnavales de confeti y  serpentina’ (Carnivals of confetti and streamers) takes place during the spring in  Mazatlan and hosts mock battles using eggshells filled with confetti and foam  cans. A ‘perfecto’ chance to let go and freak out. The one held in Veracruz is a          prodigious one as compared to Mazatlan and has 6 major parades which last for 9    days. The humungous crowd of more than 50,000 people enjoys the banda, mariachi, sinaloense and other musical melodies along with the sumptuous food festivals. The carnivals begin with ‘quema del mal humor’ that is burning of bad mood and ends with what they call as ‘Fat Tuesday’ and the burning of the leftover rich foods on ‘Ash Wednesday’.

Of Red Indians

red indian

The American Indians, as they are now called, got their name of ‘Red Indians’ because of the reddish skin tone they exhibited. The Indians have had a great history and have till date carried their rich heritage. The Indians, before the invasion of the British colonies, lived a peaceful life in solitude. The astounding history of these Indians portrays their brave and principled lifestyles and also their spiritual connection with the land they lived on. They gave a valiant resistance to the Englishmen who tried taking over their lands. A few of them although sided with the Englishmen, the rest stayed resilient. Unfortunately, a treaty was signed between the US and the British men who handed over the colonies to the US without the knowledge of the Indians. It is recently that they have found their rightful place in the States. As a display of deference, there are devoted museums that have been built which unveil the dauntless historical struggles of these men.

Other Attractions

Chichen Itza

chichen itza

There are quite a few things you need to explore in the country besides its scenic  beauty and rich history. This country holds the privilege of having one of the most  famous heritage sites, Chichen Itza which now finds a place in the Seven Wonders of  the World. This Mayan period pyramid is august for its Puuca style architecture. It  was built in the 10th century as the regional capital for the Mayan rule and flaunts a  superlative form of architectural work and is worshiped as a pilgrim site even today.  Although it is reputed for the prime feature known as ‘El Castillo’, the other  monuments in its perimeter also hold immense importance and narrate the life and  beliefs of the people then.

Beach Resorts

beach resort

Another recommendation that you might want to see includes the beach resorts of Mexico. With the mesmerizing blue waters and the tranquility of the ocean, these resorts can really show you the path to eternal bliss. To name a few, the Melia Cabo, Las Hadas Manzillo, Fiesta Americana can definitely be listed in the top ten resorts of Mexico where you can bask in the heat of the sun. And for the party people reading this, there is a list of beaches that you can visit and relish your own kind of ‘eternal bliss’.

Famous Festivals

day of dead

The Mexicans although are very lively in nature believe in celebrating the ‘Day of the  Dead’. The festival has its origin since the Aztec times where the people worshiped  ‘Lady of Dead’ (present day Catrina). Celebrated on October 31st and November 1st  and 2nd, the festival consists of parades during the day time and family gatherings  during the nights; when they visit the cemeteries in the remembrance of the lamented  beloved members.

radish fest

Another unique festival celebrated in Mexico includes the Radish Festival. Mostly famous in the Oaxaca city, the festival lasts for a couple of hours and yet attracts a number of people from all over the country. It is mind boggling to see the exhibition cum competition where people display their craftsmanship with sculpted radishes. Various human figurines, scenarios, monuments and lot more can be observed on this occasion.

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If you are a nature lover, then you surely cannot fail to attend the magnificent Monarch Butterfly migration. At the beginning of the month of October, these stunning flocks of butterflies migrate due south to avoid the freezing winters in the north. Mexico, being warm all year round, proves the prime location for these butterflies to hibernate in the Oyamel fir trees.

Mexico is a country which will never let you down in any way. So be it a trip for relaxing, family outing, romantic endeavors or chilling out, Mexico manages to tick all the boxes. It always influences the tourists to come back for more!

The Unique Country of Madagascar



The Unique Country of Madagascar

Many people have heard the name of the movie- Madagascar but only some of them would know that Madagascar is actually a whole Country. The Country, Madagascar, actually have some small islands in its territory. These islands lie in the Indian Ocean on the eastern coasts of Africa. It is regarded as the 4th biggest island across the world. Madagascar is a melting pot of various cultures as many Indians, Chinese, Arabs and migrants of other cultures live there together. Originally Madagascar is treated as a part of the Union of Africa but now its position as an African Union member has been reconsidered. Madagascar is a quite place and there have been no actions of violence when it comes to politics till now.

Green Environment:

green-landscape

The ecology of Madagascar is quite healthy. Madagascar has been isolated from its neighbouring continents from many years so there are mix species of plants as well as animals. There are many unique species of plants and animals available in Madagascar that can’t be found in other parts of the world. Due to this reason some ecologists often call Madagascar the Eighth continent of the world.   Since 1970s because of many human activities, Madagascar lost about 90% of its true forest and now most of its flora and fauna are endangered. Many tropical rainforests are on the eastern side of the island whereas tropical dry forests are on the southern and western side. But its dry forests are more preserved than its rainforests.

Enter Madagascar:

Any person of any nationality should have an initial tourist visa to enter Madagascar for not more than 30 days. Persons with passports of atleast six months of validation are also allowed to stay there. People should consult their respective embassy regarding the visa issues before making any decision of spending your long holiday in Madagascar. People should get updated about the latest travel advisories of Madagascar. Best way to reach Madagascar is by plane. The flight- Air Madagascar, popularly known by the name- Air Mad, offers its services from Milan to Nosy Be and Antananarivo. Air Madagascar is almost available from all the nearby countries like South Africa and Bangkok. The French flight ‘Air Austral’ also flies from Paris. Many other comfortable flights also provide weekly services. If people wish to travel by boat then there is only one direct link available to reach Madagascar. The path goes from the eastern coasts of Toamasina and Mauritius through Reunion.

Sightseeing in Madagascar:

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The only UNESCO World Heritage Sight of Madagascar is “Tsingy de Bemaraha”. Tsingy de Bemaraha is also categorized as the largest reserve in Madagascar occupying an area of 152,000 hectares in total. The sharp plateau made of Limestone is quite famous among the tourists and is very fascinating to look at. The limestone plateau is decorated with pinnacles which are razor sharp and are known as ‘Tsingy’, also known by the name “Labyrinth of Stone”. A huge collection of bird species and lemurs can be seen in the deciduous forests. Sometime the rare species of white Decken’s sifaka can also be seen. The collection of flora includes the varieties of pachypodium, aloes, baobabs and orchids. There are almost 50 bird species and 7 lemur species with some stump tailed chameleons (also known as the Brookesia Perarmata) available. The areas are maintained by UNESCO are very much restricted. Thus, the areas which are open for tourists change time to time.

animals

There is another adaptation of the Tsingy de Bemaraha which is quite small as compared to this one and is popularly known by the name “Tsingy de Ankarana”. The park comes on the way to Antisirana and therefore can be located easily. The speciality of this park is the three varieties of chameleons and lemurs available.

Avenue of the Baobabs

The next famous place of Madagascar is the “Avenue of the Baobabs”. Situated on the western coasts of Madagascar, this is the most visited site in Madagascar. The place is also considered as a candidate to replace one of the seven wonders of Africa. More than a dozen of unique trees can be located in this place. Many of the tress are more than 800 years old and are taller than 30 meters. Thus, the place provides a perfect photography set to the photographers.

Time for Some Fun:

kite

Many adventurous and sporty activities are done in Madagascar. The most amazing one is the Kite and Windsurfing. These are done with a constant knot wind speed of 30 especially between the months of April and November. Madagascar is regarded among the best surfing places in the entire southern hemisphere. Another fun sport is Guide Kayaking through which one can explore the entire coastline of Sainte Marie. Guide kayaking offers you to view the whole country from a different angle. There is no need of one having some experience in kayaking as one can easily enjoy the sport in the calm waters of the island. Moreover, a Cheese Diving Competition is held every year in the island to promote diving in Madagascar. Divers from all over the world visit Madagscar to take part in this competition. Another popular activity in Madagascar is Deep Sea Fishing which is done on the Mitsio and Radamas islands where fishes like Wahoo, Kingfish, Sailfish and King Mackerel waits to get captures. Thus, the small islands of Madagascar offer a lot of adventurous activities along with its rich flora and fauna.

A Shopper’s Paradise: Dubai



A Shopper’s Paradise: Dubai

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‘If you build it, they will come’

Sheikh Mohammed’s motto seems to be working wonders for his city, Dubai. Over the past decade the city has grown from a barren land of sand dunes to a landmark that depicts luxury, style and uniqueness. Tourists throng the city for its skyscrapers, beaches, theme parks, desert safaris, belly dancing under the star lit skies in the vast expanse of the desert and last but not the least its magnificent shopping experience. If you are looking for some retail therapy to satisfy your shopping cravings then Dubai is your next stop destination.

Souks

A good place to start your Dubai shopping experience is alfresco in the alleyways of the souks situated either in the Bastakiya side, the Deira side or by the Dubai Creek. Apart from strolling in the traditional lanes of the souk, tourists also get a chance to ride in the creek on the wooden boats called abra which are native to the region.

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Gold Souk

Dubai is known for its gold and Deira Gold Souk is the place to shop for it. The alleys are packed with never ending shops stocked with glittering gold that blinds you with its shine leaving you in awe. You should be a good negotiator with the shop owners to get a good bargain on the gold but even if you end up buying something expensive you will return feeling smug especially if you compare the prices of gold from back home. If you are looking for something more luxurious and sophisticated then Madinat Jumeirah Souk is one place to visit. The place is not like the traditional souks but has been fashioned into looking like one inside an air-conditioned complex which is attached to the Madinat Jumeirah resort. They offer high priced merchandises unlike the ones you get in the original souks but it is definitely worth a stroll.

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Spice Souk

You can also be acquainted with the tantalizing aromas of the spices that are prevalent in Dubai in the Spice Souk which is right next to the Gold Souk. You will find a wide array of spices such as chilli, curry leaves, turmeric, saffron, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom and all types of tee, tobacco and sheesha. Here you will also get to relish the city’s famous almond and dates dipped in chocolate and buy different sorts of dryfruits. Spice souk will definitely leave you salivating.

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Textile Souk

The Textile souk offers shoppers a variety of products ranging from garments, slippers, souvenirs, carpets and pashmini shawls. This place will add to the ethnic side of your wardrobe. The best time to visit the souks is in the morning as it will be pleasantly warm so that you skip the intense heat later in the day. Shops at all the souks are usually closed from one to four in the afternoon to avoid the high temperatures. Do keep in mind that weekends in Dubai fall on Fridays and shops are likely to remain shut. traditional-shoes

Jumeirah Beach Residence – The Walk

The Walk at the Jumeirah Beach Residence is a promenade with the ocean right beside it. Tourists get to enjoy the beach along with shops that line the beach selling handmade and traditional crafts, clothes, bags and jewelry. It is a delight to eat at the restaurants and cafes present here with its  a brilliant view of the adjoining ocean. The 1.7 km stretch that is called The Walk has a blend of tourists visiting it, both western and Arabic. There are world class hotels such as Hilton for tourists to stay in. Apart from boutiques and eateries, The Walk is known for its ‘outdoor gallery’ where artists perform. You will find beautiful dancers and singers entertaining the crowd along with comedy shows and painters displaying their paintings and sculptures on the sidewalk. This particular venue in the city will definitely blow your mind.

Malls

After some street shopping your next stop should be at the humongous malls spread out all over Dubai. You should preferably start with Mall of Emirates or the Dubai mall. Dubai Mall is said to be the largest mall in the world. This mall sports 1200 retail outlets which include accessories, apparels, furniture, electronics, restaurants, bars and practically everything under the sun. Dubai mall has an aquarium and a skating ring as well. And if that wasn’t enough, a theater and its own hotel. The Mall of Emirates does not fall behind either. It is known as the World’ First Shopping Resort as it houses two five star hotels-Kempinski and Sheraton Hotel. Not only does it offer an impossibly long list of brands to shop from, it also has its own indoor ski slope, Ski Dubai. Apart from shopping you can also watch movies in a fourteen screen movie theater and kids can also have the time of their lives at Magic Planet, which has several games and rides.

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There are several other malls similar to the two mentioned before but definitely not at the same scale. A few of them are Deira City Centre, Burjuman Centre, Jumeirah Plaza, Ibn Battuta Mall, Wafi Shopping Mall etc. Shoppers should try and visit Dubai during the Dubai Shopping Festival which falls in January. During the festival you will get the products at discount and the best prices. Even though flight ticket prices will be at its peak during this period it will be worth it.

Airport: Duty free shopping

Even when you reach the airport to finally say goodbye to the city, it does not cease to surprise you. Duty Free shopping at the Dubai Airport is a splendid departing experience for all tourists. Here you can revel in tax free shopping of items like perfumes, books, men’s and women’s fashion, jewelry, liquor etc. Dubai airport has first class service along with value for money especially for such high quality products.

duty-free-shopping

It is likely that when you start shopping in Dubai you might fail to remember what exactly you required in the first place. The shops lure you to buy products that you had not even considered to buy and it could be a nightmare for the numbers in your bank account unless you keep a rein on your credit card. But the city has several products to offer at different price ranges that will suit your needs, so you do not have to curb your urges as this astounding city will leave you yearning for more.

The Best Beer Pubs, Brewpubs and Beer Garden in Berlin, Germany



The Best Beer Pubs, Brewpubs and Beer Garden in Berlin, Germany

B284_123995_0002Berlin is the capital city of Germany. It has termed itself famous by the city of beers. The city of Berlin has its identification done by offering variety of beers at vivid beer pubs and brew cafes on street. There would be beer available at every nook and corner of Berlin as beer is a part of German culture. It is a part of the basic necessity of the people residing there. There are beer gardens as well in Berlin. In order to embrace the culture of beer in Germany they even held beer festivals which lasts for 16-18 days and there is a river of beer pouring out in the city and the moment of enjoyment and fun begins for everyone.

Berliner-WeisseBerlin has many excellent brew houses that are worth a visit during your stay.  These are not just a great place to grab an excellent beer, but also somewhere to find quality food at reasonable prices. This small pubs and cafes offers excellent food and a small but good range of beers from all over Germany including Kolsch, Alt and Pils.  The food is of a good standard and served throughout the day.  They also offer an English menu that will help you select the food to go with your beer.

There are basic four types of beer categorized in Germany according to its fermentation quality and its taste. The beer is distinguished depending upon the color, taste, fermentation duration etc. the basic types of beers are Wheat Beers, Pale Beers, Dark Beers and Unfiltered beers. Berliner Weisse is one of the cloudy, sour, wheat beer found in Berlin. It is a regional beer mainly from Berlin which is in the southern part of Germany. It is the most popular alcoholic drink in Berlin since 19th century and 700 breweries are its producers but by late 20th century there were only two breweries left in Berlin producing this specific beer and even in other parts of Germany.

Beer gardens are usually quite common in Berlin. Beer gardens known as ‘Biergarten’ in German is an outdoor area where local food, drinks and variety of beer are served openly and they are usually attached as beer hall, beer pubs or restaurants.

Pratergarten

Pratergarten

Pratergarten is considered to be the oldest of all the beer gardens in Berlin. Prater locates itself tucked off Kastanienalle submerged itself in between a mini forest of shady chestnut trees. Loyal patrons and many newcomers such as tourists are witnessed during summer and spring season which seats more than 300 seats. This old beer garden offers a niche selection of beers combined with a great selection of other beverages such as German and Australian wine which appeals all the palates. The restaurant menu includes authentic German delights which is typical Berlin style such as Schnitzel, Potato salad, mustard eggs and meatballs Koenigsberg style which pairs deliciously with a beer in the night.

Loretta

Loretta

Loretta is again a beer garden located in Wannsee on the outskirts of Berlin and is again one of the oldest and most traditional beer gardens in Berlin. Loretta is famous for its legacy because of its gorgeous scenery and exceptional selection of German style beers, brews and grub. It presents itself to the guests who are hungry, thirsty and in search of relaxation with a beer garden and a redesigned restaurant. Not only the youngsters but even the oldies will enjoy every bit of this place and the tasty grill specialties in the summer and even the beautiful lake view.

schleusenkrug

Schleusenkrug

Schleusenkrug is a typical classic style beer garden situated in a beautiful patch of woods at the western edge of the city’s central Tiergarten Park that is a zoo makes it good pick me up spot for families. Earlier this was nothing but a small kiosk along the river spree which originally spotted to parched boat passengers and pedestrians and quench their thirst with drinks and ice cream. The restaurant menu in here remains simple and loyal to its German roots serving barbecues as well. This garden has sitting for 70 people inside and for almost 500 outside.

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Bierhof Rudersdorf

All the Berliners are very much keen to attend rave parties all night techno sessions in Berghain but  just right back of it is this garden comprises of a restaurant which has a smattering of pleasant foliage and ample of seating facility for exhausted clubbers and afternoon punk crowd. The garden offers a variety of grills which usually lights up at 6 in the evening and provides a range of barbecue dishes and the breakfast at 10 in the morning is very much popular. This garden explores the most colorful side of the Berlin city.

schonwetter

Schonwetter

Schonwetter is situated at the Mauerpark. It is a very cool place to hang out with chilling and dancing on the highness of cocktails, barbecues and good music along. This is an open air-beer garden which is open only on Sundays. It can term itself as the best place to relax on a warm summer evening with beach chairs and hammocks. As there is a flea market organized every Sunday nearby with exquisite variety. The market begins at 3 in the noon with karaoke shows.

brauhaus

Brauhaus Suedstern

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This beer garden is a brilliant artworkof brickwork ambiance in Kreuzberg brewery. It offers a unique atmosphere and comfortable wooden seating for about 180 guests and visitors. There is even a room for 60 visitors on the terrace facing the street.