Daily Archives: 11.11.2015

Beauty, Magnificence and Wonders of Rio de Janeiro



Beauty, Magnificence and Wonders of Rio de Janeiro

The former capital of Brazil, Rio de Janeiro is the second largest city of Brazil. Rio de Janeiro is built along the foothills of a mountain range and has Azure Sea on one of its side. The city has got beautiful white sand beaches, an amazing architecture and a beautiful skyline created by many concrete skyscrapers. The harbor of Rio is also one of a kind with a unique entry from the ocean. The harbor is surrounded by mountains on its sides and it appears to be the mouth of river. This harbor is also one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.

When it comes to traveling and exploring Rio, Christ the Redeemer has to top the list. This statue is located on Corcovado Mountain and is the largest Art Deco statue in the world. This statue of Jesus Christ standing with open arms was constructed in 1920 and it symbolizes peace. Currently it is the most recognizable landmark of Brazil and is also a part of the popular culture as it has featured in many music videos, like Michael Jackson’s “Runaway”, as well as in trending video games, like “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2” and “Angry Birds Rio”. On climbing the top of the Corcovado Mountain one gets a breath taking view of Rio. Particularly during the evening, the statue can be seen bathed in a golden color due to the lights lit around.

Rio de Janeiro offers the tourists many spectacular sights in form of its mountains, parks and gardens, football stadiums, museums and much more. The Sugar Loaf Mountains are one of these which are also Brazil’s top landmark. This pair of mountains has one short mountain and the other taller one and these have a tramway which takes the tourists to the top. At this point one can enjoy a phenomenal sunset view. Another place to watch an amazing sunset is the Arpoador.

In the middle of South Zone is a large lagoon called, Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas which gives great views of Corcovado and Ipanema and Leblon beaches. At this place, there are jogging, cycling and skating areas and one can also hire peddle operated boats to the see the place around.

rio de janeiro parks

Rio de Janeiro has some wonderful parks and gardens where Parque Lage is one of them. Once used to be a private mansion now this place is home to many different species of plants and wildlife and also a school of fine arts work over here. Jardim Botanico is a botanical garden as well as a scientific laboratory which maintains a huge collection of plants. This garden was planted in 1800s and now one can find here plants from all over the world.

leblon

Rio de Janeiro has a popular beach culture with some amazing beaches in the world. Their beautiful white sand can amaze anybody that’s why you can always find a lot of beach goers walking, eating or just relaxing over here. There are free showers and one can also rent tents and chairs. The beaches also have bars offering food and drinks to the people. Some of the popular beaches of Rio are Ramos, Flamengo, Botafogo, Urca and Vermelha. All these are in bay beaches and are usually inappropriate for bathing. But the oceanic beaches like São Conrado and Abricó are appropriate for bathing. Abricó is a nudist beach.

rio de janeiro nightlife

Apart from the beaches and mountains of Rio de Janeiro, this city also has a very vibrant night life where you can find small and large, all kinds of clubs. These usually play the popular tracks but one can experience some out of the world Rock, E-Music and Rap too. Rio’s music has important Brazilian genres like Samba and Choro. In Rio one can also find some of the best musicians of the country and enjoy their musical talent at music shows and theaters. The New year celebrations of Rio are the largest and the most popular in whole Brazil with huge fireworks on display and free national and international concerts at the beach.

rio carnival

Rio de Janeiro has been regarded as the carnival city of the world and to not much surprise the carnival over here is still the biggest reason why a large number of tourist flock to this city every year. Held 40 days before the Easter, Rio Carnaval (Carnival in Portuguese) is a five day long wild celebration which is also the biggest carnival in the world. It happens in the hottest summer month of the Southern hemisphere and Rio which is February. The Rio Carnaval is a complete package of entertainment and culture. There is music, most of which is Samba, and people dance, sing and party their hearts out. The Rio carnival takes months of preparations but once it commences there is a carnival all over the place. The streets and the squares, the clubs and bars, all can be seen drenched in the carnival fever. A very important element of the Rio Carnaval is the Rio Carnaval Parade which is also known as the Samba Parade. For this the Samba schools create pageants and Samba nights are held to entertain the people gathered.

All in all, Rio de Janeiro is a place where you can see some of the most amazing views in the world and also you can enjoy like a total freak!

The Land of Beautifully Preserved History – Prague



The Land of Beautifully Preserved History – Prague

The capital city and the second largest city of Czech Republic, Prague is one of the most beautiful historical cities in the whole world. In the central Europe Prague is one of the largest cities and it has been the capital of historical Bohemian region for centuries. The city is known for its wonderful architecture, its theaters and a unique blend of an archaic and modern setting which makes this place quite magical and charming. The cobbled lanes, countless churches and 9th century castle give this city a beautiful archaic look. Whereas the music and energy, fine dining and cultural art events form the vibrant and modern soul of Prague.

Prague has an unpredictable weather that keeps changing throughout the year. Winters are beautiful but rare snowstorms can also hit you. The spring season is vibrant and colorful with the whole nature wakening up and filling the place with its own magic. This is usually the best time to visit the city. The summers over here are sunny and cheerful which causes a lot of tourists visiting the place in the month of May.

national museum, prague

Prague is famous for its number of museums that are home to some great collections of art works, motorcycles and other mobiles, maps and many exhibitions. Czech National Museum (Národní muzeum) is one such association of various museums which are dedicated to natural history and other subjects. Showcasing modern Czech art is a museum named Prague City Gallery whose main building is the House of the Golden Ring at the Old Town Square.

prague castle

When you are out in Prague wanting to see the beauty this city beholds then these are some must visit sights. The Prague castle has to be on number one. According to Guinness Book of World Records this castle is the largest ancient castle in the world and it offers the most beautiful views of the area below. The Palace Garden provides another stupendous sight and also takes you away from the hustle bustle of the city and let you feel its magic. The Old town is a historic center of Prague which has many historical buildings located nearby. Connecting the Old Town and the Lesser Town together is one of the most magnificent structures of Prague, called the Charles Bridge. Standing tall as a widespread religious symbol is the Infant of Prague which is a statue of Jesus Christ. Josefov, New Town, Lesser Town, Loreta, Strahov Monastery, Prague Dancing House are few other sightseeing spots worth a visit.

prague theatre

The amazing city of Prague is also quite popular for its theaters. These are unique, audacious and classical and they encourage music, dance and other innovative productions. One such amazing theatre of Prague is the Black Light Theatre. This theatre has a black backdrop, hence the name, and here many musicals and theatricals are performed which are loaded with special effects and superb actors. Or if you have a thing for classical dramas then Švandovo Theatre in Smíchov has to be a must visit. Here many international classics as well as Czech’s are played and even a language barrier doesn’t stop the tourists from visiting this place as English subtitles are projected during few performances. The Estates Theatre is another popular theatre in Prague where the Mozart himself conducted the premiere of an Opera, Don Giovanni. Even till today this opera is performed over here and it attracts many tourists from all over the world.

segway tours prague

In Prague you can find many different tours which can provide you with some recreational activity besides just admiring the beauty of the place. One can get running tours, Segway tours and even bike tours in Prague. The running tour over here can make you see most of the Prague in just 90 minutes. This lets one explore the city and also stay fit while doing so. Segway tours are another option. Segway can be rented by the tourists to explore the city and dwell in the magical mystery of Prague. Bikes can also be rented from cycling centers or cycle tour agencies. There are guided cycle tours available or one can also pick up a cycle and traverse the place on their own.

The culture of Prague incorporates opera and black light theatricals which often entertain the tourists though they are not up to the professional standards. Nevertheless you can enjoy them! Prague also holds a few festivals viz. Prague Spring, Prague Folklore Days and Prague Advent Choral meeting. Prague Spring is a classical musical festival while Prague Folklore Days is a folk dance festival.

Prague can be a shopper’s paradise as the city has got some amazing shopping malls including the largest one in the Czech Republic, OC Letňany. OC Chodov is another huge one with a hypermarket. The newest of all the malls in Prague is Paladium which is situated in the city centre. It is the most luxurious mall with a food court and few moderate as well as expensive restaurants. Other than the regular shopping from shopping malls one can also buy gifts and souvenirs from many design shops and studios located over here. De-Sign, Dox by Qubus, Hard De Core and Chatty are few of them. These sell varied designer products including custom made luxury clothes.

The Berlin Wall: An Enduring Symbol of Freedom



The Berlin Wall: An Enduring Symbol of Freedom

Irony is a wonderful thing. It greets you at the most unexpected place and restores your faith in the designs of fate. Consider for a fact that Berlin’s most famous tourist attraction is a place that does not, really, exist anymore. When it stood as the most potent symbol in the Cold War era, it not only divided a city but also the complete idea of humanity. For 28 long years it stood, silent and cruel and then one night in 1989 it was demolished, putting together not just a city but an entire definition of humanity.

4 R

Ever since its inception in 1949, the German Democratic Republic had faced a constant trickle of human resource drainage. In 10 years, nearly 3.6 million people had left for the West, leaving GDR in a precarious state. And thus in a last ditch attempt to stem the rising tide of outgoing flux, East German soldiers rolled out miles and miles of barbed wire one August night in 1961. The barbed wire was soon replaced with concrete and a sense of belonging with rootlessness. The 155 km long wall was initially called the ‘Anti-Fascist Protection Barrier’. Wet Berlin stood, a lone beacon of democracy in the middle of Socialism.  Over the decades of its existence the Wall became a symbol of ruthless oppression, complete with attack dogs, electric fencing, floodlights and trigger toting guards.  It claimed its first victim a few days after it came to exist but the most horrifying story is that of an 18 year old being shot and left to bleed to death in plain sight of the Eastern German soldiers.

berlin wall

On 17th August, 1962 Peter Fletchener met his end at the Berlin Wall. Today a memorial has been erected on the spot that he died in Zimmerstrasse. It took three decades of East Germans taking to the streets to finally tear down the Wall. The East Germans were up in arms against

the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands, SED) monopoly but the system looked as powerful as ever. And then in an yet again unexpected twist, on November 9, 1989 SED spokesperson Gunter Schabowski announced on the GDR TV that all restrictions to travel to the West would be lifted. The two Berlins came together in a mad celebration as revelers assembled to dismantle the concrete barrier with fanfare and gusto. Berlin had a party like never before.

Today only 1.5 km of the once dreaded concrete barrier stands. There is so little visual difference between the Eastern and Western parts of the city that it is impossible to ascertain where the Wall once stood if not guided by a 5.7 km long double row of paved cobblestones that stand today.

checkpoint charlie

 

 

 

 

 

One can avail bike tours along the original course of the Wall.  A 160 km long signposted walking trail exists around the wall’s former fortifications. It is called the Berliner Mauerweg and is equipped with 40 multilingual information centers.

A 140 meter long section of the former Wall was re-erected  at Checkpoint Charlie in 2004. In a field situated in the vicinity one thousand and sixty five crosses representing all the victims of the GDR era were put up. The temporary installation was demolished in July 2005.

 

War Veterans’ Cemetery

One of the aftermaths of the demolition of the Berlin Wall was the reopening of the War Veterans’ Cemetery or Invalidenfriedhof. In the GDR era there was a blanket ban on foreigners entering the area and even GDR residents required special passes to visit. Today anybody can visit the tombs that stand with their share of history. Some parts of the original wall and patrol road also exist.

East Side Gallery

East-Side-Gallery

The most visited and aesthetically appealing part of the remnants of the Berlin Wall today is the East Side Gallery. It is here that the erstwhile symbol of ruthless oppression has been transformed into a living monument of freedom and spirit. The East Side Gallery is a 1.3 km stretch of the former wall that has been adorned in murals by critically acclaimed painters near the centre of Berlin in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg. In 1990, artists from all over the world gathered to paint the east side of the Wall in colors of freedom. 105 murals of great merit have converted this to the largest open air art gallery in the world. It symbolises hope and dreams for a better future n an unparalleled way; rising from its own ashes like a phoenix.

 

Notable artists whose work can be seen here include Narendra K. Jain, Kikue Miyatake, César Olhagaray, Gunther Schaffer and Bodo Sperling. One of the most famous paintings is the Fraternal Kiss by Dmitri Vrubel. It is a depiction of  Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker engaged in a passionate kiss. The mural reads, ” God help me stay alive, among this deadly love.”

dmitri-vrubel-fraternal-kiss-brezhnev-and-honecker-embrace

However unfortunately due to lack of restoration initiatives, two thirds of these valuable works were destroyed due to vandalism, encroachment and graffiti. Non- profit initiatives in the recent years have restored some works to their original glory and yet circumstances are bleak. Some parts of the gallery are being demolished to make way for luxury apartments. Irony, as they say, is everywhere.

 

The Exquisite Ruins of Hampi, Karnataka



The Exquisite Ruins of Hampi, Karnataka

“A land without ruins is a land without memories; a land without memories is a land without history”. Situated on the banks of river Tungabhadra in Karnataka, the ruins of Hampi are a testimony to this statement. Within the wide expanse of these rocky structures we find ample traces of India’s rich historical, religious and mythological heritage. Hampi, tucked between a river on one side, and surrounded by hills on the other three, occupies a strategic position. This also made it a perfect choice to be the capital of the glorious Vijayanagar Empire in 14th century. The city, once a prominent centre though is reduced to ruins now. But it has still not lost its magnificence. The Ruins are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Hampi, Ruins

Hampi has easy connectivity from Bangalore, Mumbai and Goa. Once you reach here it’s like taking a step back into a past age. For convenience the monuments and ruins can be clubbed under the categories of ‘Religious’ and ‘Royal’ depending on their past purpose.

There are innumerable places, structures and figures within these ruins, each with their own fascinating histories. Some of the more popular sites are Virupaksha temple, Vithala temple, Hampi Bazaar, Monolith Bull (Nandi), the iconic Stone Chariot, Elephant Stables, Matanga hill. But these are by no means the only places worth visiting.

hampi.temple

Hampi is a historical and architectural landmark. Besides the enormous structures and the architectural details of the royal or military structures, the carvings and ornamentations of these ruins are also informed richly by traditional mythology. The major sites in Hampi are not restricted to a certain type; both sacred as well as secular structures can be found among these monuments. The best way to explore them is either on foot, or by using bicycles which are easily available for tourists.

Religious Structures

Virupaksha temple built in 1442 is among the oldest structures that one comes across in Hampi. The temple is dedicated to Shiva, the god of destruction according to Hindu religion. Another important temple complex is the Vithala temple, dedicated to Vishnu, the protector according to the myths. It also houses the famous stone chariot. Its outer pillars echo when tapped, which is why they are known as the “musical pillars”. These ruins are situated to the east of Hampi Bazaar, which is a wide street, lined with shops and homes and ends near the monolithic figure of Nandi. Vehicles are not allowed in this area, which is why tourists often stroll down these lanes. This also makes Hampi Bazaar a constant hub of activity.

Hampi, stone chariot

In close proximity to Hampi Bazaar is the Anjenaya Hill. There is a Hanuman temple built atop this hill and it is believed to be the birth place of Hanuman, a Hindu God who figures primarily in Indian epic Ramayana. Other sites include Krishna temple, Bhima’s Gate, further strengthening the presence of the legends from Hindu epic the Mahabharata, in addition to Ramayana.

Royal Structures

Zenana enclosure, Queen’s palace, Queen’s bath are some of the structures that stand out among the secular and royal section of the ruins. For instance the beautifully proportioned Elephant stables, as the name suggests, functioned as shelter for royal elephants.

Elephant Stables, Hampi

About 100 m from the zenana enclosure is the Tenali Rama Pavilion. Tenali Rama is a renowned personality in Indian folklore, and he was also a celebrated wit and poet of King Krishnadeva Raya’s court.

Lotus Mahal is another site worth mentioning. Its structure, resembling a half opened lotus bud, lends it its name. It was most probably employed as pleasure pavilion by queens. It is more interesting because its structure is clearly and hugely influenced by Islamic architecture, in addition to the Hindu influences.

In the city’s heydays diamonds and precious stones were sold in the main streets which surprisingly enough   was called the pan-supaari street. Archaeological Survey of India has excavated this site too within the ruins of Hampi, which are spread over more than 25 square kilometer.

Other Attractions

There are points near Virupaksha and Vithal temples where ferry rides are required. Ferries used for this purpose in Hampi are called coracle. Made of bamboo and cane their appearance resembles that of huge baskets. These ferry rides provide a unique experience in themselves.

First week of November witnesses the place hosting Hampi Utsav, a visual and cultural delight, where the monuments are lighted during dusk and dance and music form an integral part of the festival.

Hampi at night

The view from the surrounding hills in Hampi is spectacular. Paddy fields, coconut tree plantations and the ruins of Hampi are laid down as far as eyes can see. The sunset and sunrise from these points are also worth witnessing. The rock strewn landscape, massive boulders, snaking river Tungabhadra, typical plantations and the sun amid them, makes it a memorable vista.

The place is a heaven for rock climbers as well. Hemakuta hill and Matanga hill are among the most famous bouldering sites in Hampi. December is the most favored rock climbing season, when the place receives both national as well as foreign climbers.

Hampi Karnatka

On the banks of Tungabhadra, among these ruins we witness a harmonic amalgamation of different cultures. From classical Hindu myths, Muslim influences owing to the Sultanates of Deccan areas, to Jainism and its impact on the architecture of the place- Hampi and its ruins tell a rich and captivating story. The superior architecture and the brilliant craftsmanship attest to the advancement of India as far back as 14th century. Hampi and its surrounding areas today demand attention not just from pilgrims, but also tourists, history lovers, those seeking adventures, and those traveling to explore the mingling of nature and history. Hampi and its ruins form an exquisite sight, a place where history resides in every stone and at every rocky turn.