Monthly Archives: April 2014

Winter sports in Austria



Winter sports in Austria

Fancy to do some winter sports? So, do you love to do some fancy skiing and yet you don’t want to be in the middle of all the hustle-bustle with people going gaga over the snow and skating stuff? Then the one stop destination that you are searching for is Austria! Austria is the country that is famous for these winter sports, standing next to the ever beautiful heaven for winter sports, Switzerland. Though it is not very populated with people, the facilities for winter sports in Austria are second next to Switzerland and France, which by itself is an astounding fact to know. This place is also known for the cheap beer that it provides.

Ischgl-Austria_2424410a

Over time, the sporting facilities have increased and now it has become a booming market in the country. It is said that the country make over a billion euros every year just through this, which not only helps the economy to grow but it also helps the GDP of the country to grow up as well due to the wealth that is attained by the citizens in the nearby areas as well. Formerly farming towns were grazed and converted into these wonderful ski resorts over time and the fact that these were done in the small time gap of 10 years is an astounding thing to hear as such. However, these towns haven’t lost their charm of being an Austrian old town and it stills throws light into the way Austrians originally live.

609

Another interesting point to note here is that in spite of have warm winters, the skiing industry hasn’t gone down due to the heavy investment that the companies have made on artificial now generating machines. Facilities such as this have made sure that even in the most adverse conditions, wherein the snow cover is very less, they can come up with facilities that can run the industry for an entire season and that too without incurring much of a loss. Due to the facilities that have been maintained over the past few years, the cost of the ski passes have gone up considerably over time, but it is true to say that its work the buck to visit these skiing resorts.

229

The ski resorts that are present near the Italian frontier is open year round though the recommended time to visit these ski resorts is the end of December to the end of March. However, the middle period between these two periods, that is mid-January is the best time to catch up with the best skiing actions. Skiers are advised to keep away from the Christmas and the New Year holiday season as it is supposed to be filled with people and the slopes are too congested to be enjoyed to the maximum. However, towards the end of January, it is safe to assume that it is a good period to enjoy the snow and the coldness of the Austrian Mountains. It is an advice given to the tourists to avoid February as it is the time when the schools and the universities closes for vacation and the slopes are crowded again.

Packaged holiday tours are always the best option available to travellers as they arrange almost everything that the traveller will require. Starting from the hotel needed for accommodation to arranging for the equipment required for skiing, everything is provided by the holiday providers and the travellers need not go in search for the required materials, which reduces the time and cost of travel. It is also a known fact that higher the elevation of the hotel, the more it is going to cost. However, with travel agents, this can be ignored as they pre-book the hotel rooms that you will need.

It is always better if you go for a smaller ski resort as there is a chance that you will be given more attention there than in other huge establishments. The fast chairlifts provide in of a kind experience and there are also the dreaded T bar Lifts and the Slow Lifts. Your ride in one of these lifts depends upon the money that you offer to pay. Low black slopes are always better for the beginners and it is a general advice that is given to the amateur travellers to avoid high black slopes. At the end of the day, there is always the Apres Ski in the pubs and bars on top of the mountains. The evening get-togethers happen at around 5 pm and then extend till late night after having some traditional Austrian cuisine.

_i49065040

The food on the mountains is often not great and is overpriced most of the times. A high number of large restaurants mass produce the food and is given at an affordable cost, though the food is not of great quality. However, the Hotel food is normally good and you can always find a Hotel that serves tasty Pizzas or Kebabs, which are mostly Italian by nature. So, if you want to enjoy some quality time with your loved ones in the Austrian mountains, and that too on an affordable rate, then Austria is the best place to have such luxuries.

Coral atolls in New Zealand-Tokelau



Coral atolls in New Zealand-Tokelau

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be in an Island with a meagre population of friendly people? If not, then its time you visit the beautiful island of Tokelau in the mid-way between the Islands of New Zealand and Hawaii. To be precise about the exact location of the island, it is located about 500 Km north of the island of Samoa. With a meagre population of about 1500 odd people, the culture followed here is mostly Polynesian and the people here are proud about their rich cultural heritage. History reckons that the island was settle about 1000 years ago and the archaeological evidence that was found in the island supports these evidences. The tradition of Tokelau is still maintained and even today the only way to reach the island is by a ship which runs to the island every two weeks. Yes, I said that right, there are no harbours, no ports and the only possible way of reaching the island is the above mentioned ferry service every 2 weeks. Although it is famous for the tradition that they follow, many of the people have moved to the mainland of New Zealand in search for a living.

Tokelau_2017157c

Regarded to be the country with the smallest economy in the entire world, the Central Intelligence Agency’s report also shows that the average annual purchasing power per capita of the people living in the country is about US $1,000. Because transportation is such a problem, most of the food items and the drinks that are needed for everyday activity is provided by the ships that visit the island to provide them with the essentials. The coral atolls that add to the beauty of the island is the sole reason as to why food cannot be grown aground on the island. Flora and fauna on the island is meagre as there is hardly any land to raise crops or other trees. Common reptiles such as the lizard are found in plenty and there are the migratory seabirds that visit the island of Tokelau in quick succession. Also, the geographic feature of the island is prone to sea level rises as the entire island lies about 3 to 5 m above the sea level.

pacific-atoll-photo-tokelau-first-solar-powered-nation

The people who live in this island worship the god Tui Tokelau, after which the island is named. Earlier ruled by a group of clans, Tokelau is now a non-self-governing territory of New Zealand. The main source of food in the island is the fish and the coconuts, which is the stable food for most of the islands around the world. The islands disputes were primarily governed by the Administrator, who was in turn appointed by the Minister of External Affairs. However, in the year 2004, the powers went to the hands of Village councils, accounting to a total number of three, who were appointed under the power of the Administrator himself. There is also a legislative council in Tokelau, known as the General Fono council under which the village heads are elected once in every three years. As a matter of fact, the mayor comes to power in the legislature and the laws in New Zealand are not applicable to this territory. Development assistance is provided to the island by the government of New Zealand as the island comes under its supervision. It is a matter of fact that the funding that is provided by the New Zealand government is enough to fund the entire island, which shows the low GDP of the island.

120613022651-tokelau-island-nation-story-top

The culture of Tokelau Island is one that has to be talked about. The culture is famous for its ethnicity and traditional way of living. The way people take food is also an aspect that has to be looked into. Home grown food such as taro root, breadfruit, sweet potato and coconuts are mostly consumed and meat in the form of poultry and pork is taken. The handicrafts that are available in the island such as bags, fans and hats are pretty famous in the mainland of New Zealand. An example that presents a perfect example of the Tokelauan music and dance is the music group known as Te Vaka, which is also known as the “the canoe”.

tokelau3

Tourism is not prominent in the island of Tokelau. However, the silent nature of the island and the culture has started to pull more people towards the island. There is only one hotel in the island, known by the name of Luanaliki. There is also a resort by the name Fale Fa. These two places provide the only options for stay in the island. To get to the island, the ferry service from Apia is the only cheap option available to the tourists. The ferry takes about 24 hours one way and food is complementary during the journey. The main activities that can be done after reaching the island are swimming for long hours in the sparkling blue waters of the sea and the coral reefs provide a major option for the travellers to snorkel in the island. Evenings are entertaining with the local tribes providing excellent entertainment with some wonderful music and dance.

The Philly Cheesesteak



The Philly Cheesesteak

Let me tempt you to indulge in a little food porn now. The kind that gets you all excited. Imagine a loaf of bread, slit from the side and stuffed with barbecued meat. It has cheese overflowing from inside and the golden brown onions sautéed in butter covers all the meat and cheese you wanted to see. The bread itself is soft and the taste of barbecue meat inside adds the zing you would expect from quality food. This little piece of beauty, my friends, is called the Philly Cheese-steak.

It’s hard to think of Philadelphia without thinking of the cheese-steak, a sandwich containing chopped steak, melted cheese and sometimes peppers and onion. It is a very popular local fast food and is famous all over the world for the ease with which it can be made. This happy sounding food makes you just as happy as you would expect from something that has cheese and onions in it. The fact that it comes from Philadelphia also helps in the happiness part.

Overflowing goodness

Overflowing goodness

The cheesesteak was developed in the mid-20th century “by combining frizzled beef, onions, and cheese in a small loaf of bread,” according to a 1987 exhibition catalog published by the Library Company of Philadelphia. It was meant to be a fast and easy food that is tasty and quick at the same time. The result of course, is a craze that we know today. Philadelphians Pat and Harry Olivieri are often credited with inventing the sandwich by serving chopped steak on an Italian roll in the early 1930s. Legends say Pat and Harry Olivieri originally owned a hot dog stand, and on one occasion, decided to make a new sandwich using chopped beef and grilled onions. While Pat was eating the sandwich, a cab driver stopped by and was interested in it, so he requested one for himself. After eating it, the cab driver suggested that Olivieri quit making hot dogs and instead focus on the new sandwich. They listened to the cab driver and the sandwich we love today so much became a trend then. They began selling this variation of the sandwich from their hotdog stand and when demand surpassed the size of the hot dog stand, pat decided to open up a restaurant. The happy part is the restaurant is still in operation today as Pat’s King of Steaks. The sandwich was initially prepared without cheese but later, provolone cheese was added to it. It has been a classic since then.

Many variations of the Philly cheese steak exist. There is actually a huge debate raging over rival restaurants Pat’s and Geno’s whether provolone or American cheese should be used in a typical cheesesteak. The debate is about which tastes better. The meat in a cheesesteak is traditionally rib-eyed or top-round. The steak slices are quickly browned and then scrambled into smaller pieces. Slices of cheese are then placed and allowed to melt over the meat. This mixture is then scooped and placed inside a slit bread. Sautéed onions, mayonnaise, ketchup etc. are usually added to add flavor and taste and that you will find hard to let go. The bread itself is usually Amoroso or Vilotti-Pisanelli rolls. One account actually tells how the use of Amoroso bread brought tears of joy to his eyes. While the type of cheese is still a topic of debate, the use of Amoroso is universally accepted. Cheese Whiz, American cheese and Provolone are the commonly used types of cheese for the cheesesteak. The proper combination of bread, cheese and rightfully cooked meat can indeed make anybody’s day.

Philly_Cheese_Steak_Stacker

The cheesesteak goes best with a man-sized pitcher of lager beer. Nothing else can wash down the taste of meat and make you feel good about it. A large, cool lager beer is what you would want with you when you sit and indulge in all the beauty of the philly cheesesteak. The beer itself has to be a quality one. After all, quality food goes down with something of equally good quality and nothing gets better than crisp, light and cold beer.

Phill-with-beer

Somebody surfing the net would be surprised by the kind of attention this food gets from the media. Such attention to food is mostly associated with something gone wrong. But not in this case. Google cheesesteak in the news section and chances are, you are going to find something very recent about cheesesteak. And almost all the articles you are going to come across speak volumes about just how awesome the feeling of cheese melting in your mouth, along with chewy beef and crunchy vegetables, can be. Take for example the recently launched Kimchi, Dallas’ newest Korean fusion food truck. It specializes in what it calls the CupBop rice; a tasty mixture of rice, chewy meat and chopped vegetables. However, the cheesesteak sales outnumber the CupBop rice sales. Their cheesesteak is of course a little different from the original, being Korean and all. But the reviews I came across said they never want anything to do with rice anymore when such a sandwich is within their reach. And who wouldn’t? The philly cheesesteak is the kind of food that I’ll make the national food if I had my way with the country! Well, am gonna go have mine now. When are you getting yours?

 

Amalfi Coast : Italy



Amalfi Coast : Italy

Amalfi Coast

Location

Who would not want to pay a visit to the one and only sizeable coast of Italy that is actually worth a visit . Located on the southern coast of the sorrentine peninsula , that is one of the most popular town of Italy .   The Amalfi Coast offers some of the most angelic scenery that is beyond human imagination. Amalfi has gained it reputation and it has been able to attract thousands of tourist every year .It is generally accepted that Amalfi is the combination of history and nature . Basically , there are so many things to be discovered in Amalfi coast. Amalfi coast is the scenic landmark of Italy.

location

History

Amalfi is a very astounding town of Italy whose name the coast has been blessed as ” The Amalfi Coast “.   The town of Amalfi is the capital of maritime republic , that is very vastly came to be known as the Duchy of Amalfi . Initally, the whole of Malfi was prevailing upon Barter system but some of the merchants of malfi were in the favour of purchasing land by making use of the gold coins . The town is actually very famous for its flourishing schools of the law and mathematics . It has a very long history of catering of the visitors.  The town is actually located in the region of Campania , and only from the name of that town , the entire Amalfi Coast has been given name as ” Costiera Amalfitana.”It can be said the actual town of Amalfi is a great of physical beauty while the Amalfi coast has lot to discover and diversity prevails within Amalfi Coast .

Amalfitana is an marvellous example of mediterrean landscape. There are around thirteen municipalities that are pinpointed on the Amalfi Coast . All of them are very popular tourist attractions that very easily attracts many tourists .

Amalfi Coast has been able to acquire utmost importance as a maritime power. Amalfi tables provided a maritime code that was very widely used in port cities by the christians.

his

history

Highlights of the coast

The blue sea , green of mediterrean maquis , citrus fruits add to the beauty of the entire coast . It has been known as the one of the most beautiful coast which the visitors love to visit and the amazing reaction of the visitors after visiting the coast is always ” WOW”. Amalfi has spectacular colours which mirror the enchanting landscape of Amalfi, the beautiful town.

Amalfi has engaged a very high and reputed position in the gothic archiecture The area of Malfi is known as the producer of liquer . The Amalfi is also known as the cultivator of the lemons . Amalfi is also known as the producer of very thick paper which is very popularly known as bambagina .

It is adviced that the best time to visit the Amalfi Coast is in the summer or early autumn . The prices get inflated in the summers and the coast gets very busy in the summers . You can easily get to Amalfi coast by boat . One can also take ferries from Capri , or you can easily reach to Amalfi by taking the bus from sita coach to see the beautiful and enchanting sight of Amalfi .Also , there are two train stations also that will get you to the coast : Salerno and the local circumvesuviana .Both the stations are very affordable and they will easily get you to the one and only popular destination in the Italy ” The Amalfi Coast “.

Sights in the Amalfi Coast

There are many spectacular sights in the Amalfi Coast . No one can afford to miss even a single one of them .

1. Ravello

Ravello is very prepossesing town that is located in the Amalfi coast which a perfect mix of culture. Ravello has many spectacular churches and thus , it is known as very suitable for wedding purposes. Ravello has big villas , exorbitant gardens , very magical restaurants . This town is very small but beautiful town . It is adviced to travel to this town by your car because of the less parking space. Ravello offers intact composure as it is dwelled with delicious meals with restorative sea views.

ravello

2. Positano

Positano is a faultless town of the Malfi that attracts many tourist only with its single sight . It has great shopping malls and restaurants . Just a 10 minute water taxi will get to the beautiful town ” Positano’. Sometimes , traffic can occur in the town “Positano “, but there is something about the malfi that makes visitors to let go of the traffic and to enjoy only the beautiful sights of the coast . But , it is said that “Positano” is a little bit expensive town . But , inspite of being expensive , it has always been in the top list of the tourist.

positano

3. Capri

It is a very beautiful island .The food of Capri is also very delicious which the visitors love to taste every time they visit Capri. From Capri , one can have a beautiful sight of the whole town Sorrentine peninsula .

capri

Thus , Amalfi coast is one of those places with ” a must – see ” tag on it . It is a flawless place for romantic break . It is known as a complete package in one .It offers you with beautiful sights , delicious food , history places , beautiful restaurants , magical places , and even churches for wedding purposes also .Paying visit to Malfi is actually worth it .

 

 

 

Of Thai Silk Industry: The House of Jim Thompson, Bangkok



Of Thai Silk Industry: The House of Jim Thompson, Bangkok

The fabric ‘silk’ needs no introduction. Capturing the hearts and imaginations of couturiers, weavers and fashion lovers the world over, this natural fabric has managed to associate itself with luxury, glamour, mystery and royalty. Pondering on the origins of the threads of royalty for generations will most definitely take you all the way back to the Far East. The coveted fabric enchanted patrons from all over the world and served as an all important link between the Orient and the Occident. This connection was earmarked geographically via The Silk Route.

Thai silk

If your next holiday wish list includes a little bit of history and culture, an air of mystery and a hankering for some silk souvenirs, look no further than Thailand. The hand woven silk of Thailand is noted for its sheen, remarkable texture and strong, contrasting jewel tones complementing each other in perfect harmony. Its capital city Bangkok is home to the Thai Silk Company founded by Jim Thompson better known as the Thai Silk King. This man almost single handedly revived the silk weaving industry in Thailand, an ailing indigenous craft that fed a substantial percentage of its population. Also known for his charismatic personality and enviable social skills, the American entrepreneur was touted the best known foreigner in Bangkok and perhaps, in all of South East Asia. Despite his mysterious disappearance in 1967, he left behind a ‘legacy en soie’ for Thailand and the world through his architectural masterpiece and museum, The Jim Thompson House.

Jim Thompson: The Silk King

Born in Greenville in the United States in 1906, James Harrison Wilson Thompson was educated at St. Paul’s boarding school and Princeton University. Putting aside his love for art, he chose to study architecture at The University of Pennsylvania and was a practicing architect in New York until 1940. With the increase in US involvement in World War II in the 1940s, Thompson enlisted for military service the same year. He was assigned to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) which allowed him to travel globally and opened his eyes to the world. His duties had him travel to Africa, Italy, France and the Far East, for which he underwent rigorous jungle and survival training.

On travelling to Thailand, he developed a sense of deep love and affection for the country and its people and considered settling there permanently. Following his discharge from the army in 1946 and his divorce from wife Patricia Thraves, he returned to the country and devoted his life to reviving the indigenous Thai hand woven silk industry.

download (2)

Thompson and his colleague George Barrie founded the Thai Silk Company valued at $25000. They each owned 18% of the company’s shares and sold the rest to Thai and foreign investors. Thompson was an art aficionado and was enamoured by the quality and beauty of Thai silk. Weaving of the hand woven fabric was a cottage industry but was on the verge of extinction, a threat to a large number of families dependent on the trade. The demand for silk was low as it was a fabric used occasionally and ceremonially. The industrial revolution created a massive setback to the slow, hand woven silk industry which couldn’t compete with mechanized markets. The decline of the industry seemed unavoidable and irretrievable. However, Thompson had faith that the product would do well in the country and overseas.

Thompson worked hard to customize his product in so as to enhance the quality, consistency and marketability according to international market preferences. The fruits of his labour extended far beyond international acclaim and astounding profits. He invented the distinctive jeweled tones and contrasting colours synonymous with Thai silk today. He uplifted the poor, especially the women of Thailand who formed the bulk of his workforce by allowing them to work at home.

Thompson was also a renowned antique collector and used old properties to create his magnificent architectural masterpiece to showcase his enviable collection. Now a museum, the Jim Thompson House is open to the general public and is widely visited.

In 1967, Thompson disappeared from Moonlight Cottage in Malaysia where he was holidaying with his friends and was never seen again. A number of theories attempt to explain this disappearance but none of them are conclusive or definitive. He was declared dead by absentia and his life and death were bound together by legend.

The Jim Thompson House, Bangkok

Started in 1958, this phenomenal project is a mere glimmer of Thompson’s legacy. At first glance, all you will see is a seemingly dense jungle elegantly cluttered with green flora. On closer inspection, a Thai style house comes into view. Thompson built this ‘House on the Klong’ using dilapidated country properties to form a six house complex on his estate. Preserving the nostalgic appeal Thomson so greatly revered, the house has been maintained just the way he designed it.

download (1)

A fitting abode for his antique treasures dominated by Buddhist art collections, sculptures and paintings The Jim Thompson House is a must visit on your trip to Bangkok. On visiting the museum, you can see the eccentricities and perfectionism Thompson employed in his endeavours in the units from Ayutthaya and Bangkrua, the indoor staircase and the reversed wall panels. Keep your eyes peeled for Chinese Ming pieces in blue and white, Belgian glass, Cambodian carvings, Victorian chandeliers, Thai stone images, Burmese statues and a dining table once used by royalty. There is also a retail store selling Jim Thompson brand products and a museum of silk treasures.

download

This enchanting attraction is accessible by both public and private transport and is open between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm. There are guided tours around the property with an admission fee of 100 baht for adults and 50 baht for students.

Gemeinde Bad Schandau, Saxony, Germany



Gemeinde Bad Schandau, Saxony, Germany

Saxony, a German state which lies to the extreme east of its country, is renowned for its complex history and many historical sights, drawn to the foreign tourist. The state of Saxony is situated between Czech Republic to the east and Poland to the south. Though it is one of the smaller German states, the cities of Dresden and Leipzig are major attractions. Near Dresden, lies the Saxon Switzerland national park, the only national park of Saxony and the only rock national park in the country. To the extreme eastern edge of the Saxon Switzerland national park, the small town of Bad Schandau can be found. It is situated in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains, providing the perfect spot for hikers, climbers, and cycle tours. It is also 5 kilometers north from the Czech border and 33 kilometers from the city of Dresden.

Bad_Schandau

Bad Schandau is popularly known as a spa town. Arrays of spa clinics welcome tourists looking out for a quality holiday to improve their health. This factor is further enhanced with the salubrious and beautiful scenery that the town provides.

 

Bad Schandau national park Centre

National Park Centre

Located in the center of the town, the Nation Park Centre provides you with answers to your questions on the peculiarities of the region. The Centre is filled with activities ranging from workshops and exhibitions to field trips. One can obtain information about the park’s flora and fauna and also learn about sandstone formations. They have 3 large exhibition floors that help you learn developmental history covering a span of 100 years. The Centre provides a good overview of Bad Schandau that in turn helps the tourist regarding the stay in the town.

 

Personenaufzug

personenaufzug bad schandau

The best view of Bad Schandau is offered by the Personenaufzug also known as the Bad Schandau Elevator. It is situated 10 kilometers away from the center of the town of Bad Schandau. The lift resembles the historic lift at Buergenstock in Switzerland, which stands tall at 152 m. The century old lift built in 1904, catapults you to a height of 52.26m, to give you a dominant view of Bad Schandau and the surrounding area. The structure is made of steel and is linked to a beautiful forest path and the Elbe Valley. At the top output, an outdoor enclosure housing lynxes can be found.

 

Johanniskirche – St John’s Church

Bad_Schandau_Johanniskirche

The history of St. John’s church in Bad Schandau sates back to the 15th century. Though the Thirty Years War has done the church profound damage, the church has often been repaired through professional renovations. The church being an art treasure house attracts visitors from around the world. Art pieces worth seeing at the church are the renaissance altar in sandstone, which was originally made ​​for the Dresden Cross Church made by Dresden sculptor, Hans Walther, a precious carving named “Man of Sorrows ” and an organ from the 20th Century, which is the fifth organ in the marvelous history of St. John’s Church.

 

Pflanzengarten Bad Schandau

Pflanzengarten

1902, witnessed the opening of the first regional botanical garden in Saxon Switzerland. The aim of this botanical garden was to preserve indigenous plants. The garden is opened daily in warmer months. The vegetable garden introduces the flora of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains. In a massive area of 6100 m², 1500 species are found in the garden. In addition to this, one can also observe rare plants from Siberia, China and America. The plants of Rhododendrons and Azaleas are worth a see.

 

The Schrammsteine

Schrammsteine

After taking the lift, one can enjoy a stellar view of the Schrammsteine after following a path to the Ostrauer Scheibe. The Schrammsteine is a chaotic rock which is very popular among rock climbing fans. The primitive rocks are elongated and highly fissured. The rock group is divided into front Schrammsteine and rear Schrammsteine. The Schrammsteine comb is extremely popular among walkers due to its diverse and picturesque views of nature. The rocks, nevertheless, offer a challenge for all with its plethora of trails with various levels of difficulty.

 

Toskana Therme

toksana therme

A variety of spa treatments are offered at this thermal pool complex, which makes it a major highlight in Bad Schandau. This is an ideal spa for pampering and relaxation, it also provides you with an opportunity to de-stress with the help of high salt concentration in a saline pool. A specialty which attracts visitors is the ‘Liquid Sound Pool’ in which one can bathe in sea water in light and music. Massages, physiotherapy, thermal and cosmetic treatment are wellness programs that are available.

 

Kirnitzschtal tramway

Kirnitzschtalbahn

Connecting Bad Schandau to Kirnitzsch valley is the historic and popular electrical tram. Since its inception in 1898, following a 7.4 km long stretch, the tram has helped attract tourists to reach their respective destinations. The tram has 8 stops and sites like the Schrammsteine, the monkey stones, cow sheds, mountains and other beautiful views can be seen from all stops. The whole journey in these old fashioned carriages takes approximately 25 minutes and gives you plenty of time to enjoy the natural beauty along the Elbe Sandstone Mountains and the Kirnitzsch Valley. The tram provides an excellent and cost effective way to start at hike spots, and thus is an integral part of tourism at Bad Schandau.

Enter the Underworld: Basilica Cistern, Turkey



Enter the Underworld: Basilica Cistern, Turkey

Did you feel your heart race when James Bond went rowing in a canal bordered by marble columns in the movie From Russia with Love? Did you feel the adrenaline pumping as you turned the pages of Dan Brown’s Inferno as Robert Langdon went on a race against time to potentially save the human race? How about the Yerebatan Cistern from Assassin’s Creed: Revelations? These fantasy moments can easily be relived. All you need to do is book a trip to Istanbul, Turkey and kill some time at the Basilica Cistern, the very location where all of the above scenes took shape.

Basilica Cistern

Steeped in the colours of Byzantine history, the Basilica Cistern is definitely one of those places that takes you back in time to a bygone era and perhaps transports you into your favourite video game. One of the oldest water reservoirs in the city, this cistern is one among hundreds in Istanbul but its grandeur is unparalleled. Revamped today with lights, classical music and the melancholy dripping of water from the ceiling, the Yerebatan Sarnic or The Sunken Palace as it is popularly known has an unconventional romantic appeal too.

History

Dating back to the 6th century AD, the Basilica cistern was built under Byzantine Emperor Justinian when Istanbul was still called Constantinople. Cisterns were water reservoirs in those days and provided the foundation for the city’s water supply system. The Basilica Cistern is the largest of the hundreds of underground cisterns that quenched the thirst of bygone Turks. Deriving its name from the Stoa Basilica which lay above it, this expansive artificial freshwater environment was discovered by scholars in the middle ages when locals lowered buckets into their basements to collect water and even to fish. The Stoa Basilica was constructed during the Early Roman period and served as an important commercial, legal and artistic hub. It was believed to have been flanked by gardens and enveloped by colonnades as it lay opposite the iconic Hagia Sophia.

Basilica Cistern

Ancient historians credit the Basilica cistern structure to Emperor Constantine which was enlarged and redesigned by Emperor Justinian following the city’s ruin in the Nika Riots of 532 AD. 7000 slaves were employed in the building of this masterpiece which was a filtration system for the Great Palace of Constantinople. It continued to be the source of water for the Topkapi Palace post the Ottoman conquest of 1453 and into the contemporary era.

The Basilica’s water can be sourced to the Egikrapi Water Distribution Center in Belgrade and travelled 971 metres via the Valens Aqueduct.

Architecture

When it comes to the number game, the Basilica Cistern can boast a list of daunting and astounding specifications. Spanning an area of a mammoth 9,800 square metres, it is capable of holding 80,000 cubic metres of water. The vast ceiling rests on concrete rows of 336 marble columns, each of them being 9 metres high and 4.9 metres apart. These are some of the finest specimens of Ionic, Corinthian and Doric styles of architecture.

Central Pillar

 Look out for the column bearing engravings of a Hen’s Eye, slanted branches and tears. Said to resemble the Triumphal Arch of Theodisius I, it is a tribute to the slaves who lost their lives in the building of the cistern. Exquisitely carved and engraved with marble and granite, the majestic columns seemed to belong to older buildings and are likely to be recycled from ruins.

Inverted Medusa

The Basilica cistern is well fortified with a 4 metre waterproofing mortar coated thick firebrick wall. You can access it by descending a set of fifty two stairs at the entrance. On approaching the northwest corner of the cistern, look out for two columns carved with the face of Medusa, a chthonic character in Greek Mythology. One of the columns bears an inverted image of the demonic female while the other depicts a sideways stone carving. The lack of writing on the columns makes it difficult to ascertain the origin of the structures or their mysterious positioning. However, the columns are believed to have been recycled from an old Roman building. According to Greek mythology, a direct gaze into Medusa’s horrific face would turn a man to stone. The sculpture is said to be placed sideways to negate the power of her gaze. A more logical explanation stated the need for better sizing and fit to support the column.

Sideways Medusa

The cross shaped vaults and rounded roof arches are remarkably used for support and aesthetic purposes. Despite its massive capacity, the cistern today is practically drained with just a few feet of water at the bottom.

The Basilica Cistern is one of the most remarkably preserved monuments in the vivid history of Byzantine Turkey. This is largely due to the many restoration attempts that have been undertaken since its construction. It was opened to the public in September, 1987.

Tourist Information

The Basilica Cistern is open everyday between 9:00 am and 6:30 p.m. Visit this astonishing location for an hour or two for a fee of 10 TL for foreign tourists and 5 TL for Turks.

Whether you crave a little bit of history, fantasy and fiction or an avant-garde romantic getaway, the Basilica Cistern has it all. Kill a couple of hours walking on raised wooden platforms while goldfish swim in the cool waters beneath. Take in the classical music from the ceiling and look Medusa in the eye if you dare. Find comfort in the eerily soothing sounds of water slowly dripping from the ceiling and let the lights guide you around. It is an experience truly out of this world.

The alpine town of Villach, Austria



The alpine town of Villach, Austria

Ever wondered how it’s like to be in a city which has its history referring to the Roman times? Well, if you want to travel to such a city which has its roots dating back to the Roman Empire, then Villach in Austria is a town that one must visit without fail! Well known for its carnivals, this town is one of the hearts of Carinthia, and it has much importance to the country as it provides the major intersection or gateway for railway travel, both inside the country and outside the country as well. Being one of the countries that indulges in the Alpine convention to develop sustainability in the region, it is a matter of significance to mention here that the first town ever that received the Alpine Town of the Year award was Villach.

Villach_Hauptplatz_30012011_666

The town of Villach encompasses about 30 odd villages and it is located on the banks of the River Drava. It forms an Alpine town as it is situated in the range that originates from the northeast near the Lake Ossiach and moves towards the slopes of Mt. Dobratsch.

The town has a rich cultural and historical heritage as well. The town has rich Roman connection as it was situated right in the middle of the all-important Roman road between Noricum and Italy. This history dates back to about 15th century because of which the town has attained great importance with the ancient scholastic medium. The later part of the history says that the tow was hit by a major earthquake in the mid 1300’s and also in the late 1600’s as well. Both these tragedies have had a huge impact on the economy and life of the town as major fires broke out during these occurrences, leading to large scale loss of life and property.

Villach_altstadt

The city earned much fame and importance with the introduction of railways in the year 1864. Known as the Sudbahn Railway, this railway network led to the economic development of the area in that time period. It is said that this railways played a major role in transporting the Austro-Hungarian Army during the First World War. However, the Second World War was a complete eyesore to the town as the bombings led to the damage of almost nearly all the property in the town. History reckons that as many as 300 people were killed back then in the 40,000 odd bombings that occurred in the town.

Villach_-_Blick_von_der_Stadtparrkirche_auf_den_Rathausplatz

However, it is said that the town of Villach was one of the quickest to recover from this crooked act by the allies. The town sprung back into normal over a short period of time and the economic aspect of the town started booming with the rise in popularity with tourism. The scenic beauty of the tow has been backed up by the government. Though Villach doesn’t have an Airport of its own, the nearby Airport of Klagenfurt is the best way to reach the town if Air was the only option left with the tourist. However, the train routes have been some of the best in Austria with this sleepy town providing the gateway to some of the most important cities in the country, namely Belgrade, Venice, Linz, Graz and Vienna as well. The town is also accessible by the highways A10 and A2, however though these are not recommended as the scenic beauty while travelling in trains is highly recommended as a thing to watch out for by local people.

VILLACh

Some of the activities that have to be done while visiting the Villacher Fahrzeug Museum and the Museum der Stadt Villach. Both these museums provide artefacts that show the richness of the Roman Empire. A good one hour at the Museum will provide an insight to the rich cultural heritage of the town. Another place to visit in the town is the Landskron Castle, which lies at a height of about 676 m above sea level. The best time to visit the Castle is a Tuesday. A dinner is served by the people of Villach, known as the “Medieval Dinner”. People come dressed in the traditional costumes and serve the dishes that are home to the town. This activity provides an insight into the rich cultural aspects of the town. There is also the rich falconry in the Castle, and if you are lucky enough, then you might be able to catch up with some of the birds that fly right over your head as well.

Another important place to visit in Villach is the Krimmler waterfalls. Regarded as the largest waterfalls in the all of Austria, the place gives you a breath-taking view of the scenic beauty of the countryside. There is also the Thermen Resort which provides the best of vortex pools and hot pools in the region. So, if you decide to stay in the town of Villach, then this resort will be the perfect one to do so as it provides all these facilities at an affordable cost of about 8 Euros for three hours. There is also an attached restaurant which serves traditional and tasty dishes in Villach.

 

The World’s Oldest Mall: Gallerio Vittorio Emanuele ii



The World’s Oldest Mall: Gallerio Vittorio Emanuele ii

Gallerio 3

The Gallerio Vittorio Emanuele ii, named after the first king of Italy is a beautiful mall located beside the Duomo or Milan Cathedral in Milan. It is the world’s oldest shopping mall and is the dream destination of any self-professed shopaholic. It was designed in 1861 within a four storeyed double arcade. The mall was built by famous architect Giuseppe Mengoni between 1865 and 1877. Though a 19th century building, the Gallerio maintains its elegance and beauty even today. Though the mall has only expensive shops, elite stores and pricey restaurants you can still go window shopping as the mall is worth visiting! The Vittorio mall has been the shopper’s destination ever since its completion in 1877.

The Gallerio is topped by a glass dome above a mosaic shield. The Galleria paved way to the evolution of the modern glazed and enclosed shopping mall. The two glass vaulted arcades of Galleria is shaped in such a way that it covers the street connecting the Duomo Cathedral to Piazza del Scala. The Milan Cathedral is dominated by the mall’s triumphal arch. During Christmas, the decorated dome dims the beauty of even the Piazzo del Duomo! Many other shopping centres of the 19th century like the Burlington Arcade in London and Saint Hubert Gallery in Brussels were also constructed in a similar fashion. Though the entire mall has a covered ceiling it still gives one the feeling of shopping outdoors. Gallerio is also architecturally very significant as it is one among the surviving constructions of the 19th century elitist designs.

Gallerio 6

The construction of this vintage mall is simply grand and is the perfect set-up for taking pictures. The ground floor of the mall has four mosaics portraying the Coat of Arms of the three capitals Italy (Turin, Florence and Rome) and Milan. It’s an ancient myth that if a person stamps on the genitals of the bull depicted on the Turin Coat of Arms and turn around for three times, it will bring him good luck. However the belief has resulted in creating a hole in place of the bulls’ genitals! Vittoria Mall is thus a lively, noisy and colourful shopping mall steaming with life. The building however has only high-end fashion stores, but the incredibly arched, glass ceilings is a must watch and the mall is absolutely worth a stroll. Moreover sitting at one of the outdoor restaurants and watching people over beer is great fun.

Because of the uncountable number of shops in Galleria and its popularity as Milan’s common meeting and dining centre, it is also nicknamed ‘il salotto di Milano’ (The drawing room of Milan). According to a 2013 census, the mall has the most number of luxury retailers selling jewellery, books and paintings as well as posh restaurants, bars and cafes. It has one of the most decorated McDonald’s in the world. The Gallerio is also home to some of the oldest shops and restaurants in Milan. The Biffi Café (the first café in Milan to have electric lighting), the Savini restaurant and Bernasconi, a famous silverware store are few of them. In 2012, by refusing McDonald’s a renewal of its tenant period, Gallerio hit the media as controversial news. Today, in place of the famous café stands the mall’s second Prada store.

Gallerio 5

Gallerio has at least fifty high-end boutiques selling the latest Italian fashion.  It is indeed one of the greatest landmarks for shoppers round the globe. The magnificent building is also host to the famous Prada Flag Ship’s store. The shopping arcade takes us to the world of international shopping, housing many of the global elite brands. It’s a fun place to visit and go window shopping. Borsalino, a store in Gallerio provides the best hats you can ever get hold of! So if you are a hat lover, Gallerio is your place! Louis Vuitton, Gucci and several other outlets are found here, although the architecture alone is worth a trip.

Once you reach Milan, there are several buses, metros and trams that provide access to this place. You can stay at Park Hyatt located next to this incredible piece of architecture and still enjoy its majesty day or night. Gallerio is one place where you can find all the big fashion names under a lovely glass roof. Sometimes you can also find street performers here who are fun to listen to and watch. Though very expensive, Gallerio is one place where you can pass a happy 20 minutes by just taking in the atmosphere and the sights. It is a beautiful building that was years ahead of its time when completed. Compared to most American malls, Galleria is an excellent fusion of stone, steel and glass.

Gallerio 4

The Gallerio Vittorio Emanuele ii mall is sin doubt the most breathtaking gallery in the entire world with top end stores and eateries. The architecture, painted frescoes and amazing mosaic floors with astonishing designs, drawings and images make the gallery seem all the more unique. In addition to taking credit for being the first mall in the world, Gallerio is also renowned for its majestic elegance. It’s worth a visit if you are in town. Just a peep into the innumerable counters located in the various corners of the mall gives you an unforgettable experience. People tour Milan for three primary reasons: One, its shopping; two, the Duomo and three, Gallerio Vittorio.

 

All about National Centre for the Performing Arts (National Grand Theatre) Beijing RTP



All about National Centre for the Performing Arts (National Grand Theatre) Beijing RTP

The National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) is the trademark opera house of Beijing, China. The National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) is also called the National Grand Theatre or more colloquially ‘The Giant Egg’. It’s a beautiful specimen of fine modern architecture. It hosts three performance halls, namely: The Opera Hall, The Music Hall and the Theatre Hall. The mammoth opera house had a construction cost of about 300 Million Euros. The construction of this structure began in December 2001 and the project was completed in July 2007, it became open to the public in December 2008.  According to stated facts, the whole theatre has around 5473 seats which are divided in the three halls.

Architecture

Beijing National Grand Theater, The Egg, Tiananmen, Beijing, China

The beautiful National Grand Theatre has an ellipsoid shape, which is not only quite stunning to the eye but is also an engineering marvel in itself. The whole structure is made of titanium and glass. The structure is surrounded by an artificial lake. The total area covered by the National Centre for the Performing Arts is around 219, 400 meter square. The height of the theatre is about 46. 28 m. The architect of the National Centre for the Performing Arts is Paul Andreu.  The shape of the theatre is such that it resembles a giant egg cut in half.

Controversy of Location

Location Controversy

The location of the Theatre is such that it is located to the west of Tiananmen Square and ’The Great Hall of the People’, also it is situated fairly near to the Forbidden City. On top of that, the theatre boasts of a very modern architectural style. All these factors put together, created some amount of controversy when the theatre came up. The architect, Paul Andreu then said that even though Beijing is proud of its rich cultural heritage in the form of ancient traditional Chinese architecture, the city should also include some buildings of modern architecture as Beijing is a global city and the capital as well. The whole theatre was made in such a manner that the surroundings of the theatre compliment the adjacent ‘The Great Hall of the People” rather than opposing it.

Opera House

Opera House

The opera house is located at the middle of the National Centre for the Performing Arts. There are exactly 2,398 seats in the opera house. The beautiful golden lighting, large seating capacity and flexible positioning of the stage, all make the opera house a wonder venue for hosting large scale dance and opera performances. By the looks of it, the Opera house can be undoubtedly called the best part of the NCPA.

Concert (Music) Hall

Concert Hall

To the east of the opera house, one can witness the magnificent concert hall which is also called the music hall. The silver – white color perfectly gives a very soothing and calm presence. The stage is situated right at the center of all the seats, this benefits the viewers as they can enjoy the performances by virtually sitting anywhere in the hall. Roughly 2000 people can be seated in this majestic hall. The structure of the hall was built while keeping both the musical and architectural aspects in mind. The hall boasts of having the largest pipe organ in Asia. The mammoth pipe organ has 94 stops and about 6500 pipes, making it one of the most impressive pipe organs.

Theatre Hall

Theatre hall

The theatre hall is primarily used for staging the very popular Beijing opera but is also used for staging plays and dance performances. The theatre, like the other two halls is yet another beautifully painted specimen of perfection. The colors are soothing and very pleasing to the eyes. The theatre is quite large and can have around 1, 040 people seated at a given point of time.

Other Parts of the NCPA

Multi-functional Hall

Apart from the three major performance halls which have been listed above, the NCPA, Beijing also has another hall which is the multi-functional hall which is situated in the south of the NCPA. The hall has a seating capacity of around 140.

Olive Hall

Olive Hall

This hall acts as the gateway or the entrance for the three major performance halls of the NCPA.

80 – Meter corridor

80-Meter Corridor

The beautiful NCPA also has an underwater corridor which is 80 meters in length and connects the north entrance to the olive hall which is situated in the main building.

Tickets and Visiting Time

ticket

A majority of the tickets are sold at a fairly reasonable price for the general public. The box office where the tickets are sold is situated at the north entrance of the theatre and is open between 9:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. every day. If you ever plan on visiting this amazing theatre, do take note that the theatre will not be open on Monday for the general public. As Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City are closely located to the NCPA, it is a good idea to visit these attractions along with this wonderful theatre. It is suggested that properly exploring the theatre would take somewhere between 2 to 3 hours, so plan your trip accordingly and be ready to witness some amazing modern Chinese architecture.