Monday, 30 January 2012

Prague, the City of Hundred Spires

It is in Prague where I found all the attractions that I like the most. The architecture and beautiful scenery are all I want to see. 

As the place is known to be the City of Hundred Spires, I have created a collage of photos depicting the most famous spires of Prague.
Hundreds of Spires in Prague
Prague or Praha is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic situated in the north-west of the country on the Vltava river. The river splits this wonderful city into two halves while Charles Bridge links them together. Prague Castle and the Little Quarter are situated on one side, and the Old Town, New Town and the Jewish Quarter on the other.

It is easy to get around on foot or by using public transport. 

Walking is a very enjoyable way to see the city, but with its steep hills, cobbled streets and tramlines you must wear comfortable shoes for safety and good mobility. 

To feel and enjoy the real Prague, be prepared to abandon your sightseeing itinerary ... for a moment put away your map and wander off the beaten track; explore narrow side streets and courtyards, where Prague is often at its most charming and beautiful.

There’s something new and interesting around every corner.  I am curious so I stroll the hidden treasure. 

I  lost my way on one of the streets which seems like a maze. And, there is a building on a narrow street with a door that easily catches my attention. It's full of art and overpoweringly attractive
The Door that Catches My Attention
Then, I just kept on walking until I found a throngs of tourists going to one direction.  I moved over and found the Wenceslas Square. Voila! I was back to the end of the maze.

The climate in Prague, as well as in the whole Czech Republic is temperate, a mixture of oceanic and continental. The average winter temperature is 5 degrees C, average summer temperature is 20 Celsius degrees.  Not too cold, not too hot. It is just right for me considering that I live in Toronto where winter goes as low as minus 25 degrees Celsius.

200 Shops All in One Roof ~ Prague
The official language in Prague is Czech. The currency they use is Czech  crown (Koruna). As the official currency, the Czech crown is the best and often the only possible currency to use when paying. 

Although the Czech Republic is part of the European Union, the euro is not widely accepted here yet. Some stores, restaurants and hotels accept payments in euros but the exchange rate may not be very good. 

I advice you to use Koruna when in Prague. 

The same is true in any other country you are visiting; use the local currency.

The most popular pedestrian thoroughfare, and my favourite place, is the Charles Bridge. 

I walk a couple of times and admire the statues lining on the bridge.  

I can't help but stop and peer at the artwork on display along the bridge while listening to the music that is coming from an instrument I have not seen before. While on the bridge, I can see the Smetana Museum on the right and Prague Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral on the hill at left. The bridge connects the Old Town to the Lesser Town (Mala Strana).
Charles Bridge ~ Prague
The Astronomical clock entertains every tourist who comes.  It is mounted on the southern wall of Old Town city Hall in the Old Town Square.  You will see the Apostles playing at the chime every hour.

Astronomical Clock ~ Prague
Part of our tour is the river cruise and I am glad I did not miss it.  After a long walk with a group of tourists, we are heading to Vltava River on foot to board a big ferry.  Drinks and pastries are available on board.  

I sit on the top deck with tables and chairs just like in a restaurant.  It is comfortable and scenic. We cruise at Vltava and we see Prague Castle, Charles Bridge and the beautifully ornate National Theatre.  

An hour of cruising is just worth it as I see Prague as it is - a City of Spires. 

One of the landmarks that I can think of are the spires of the great Gothic Church of our Lady before Tyn.

 Vltava River Cruise ~ Prague

My way of sharing my experiences is through pictures that I myself carefully selected. The views, the architecture, and the people are my choices.

I want to think that I have covered the most visited places in Prague but unable to put everything inone blog some of which I have to identify and summarize. 

Interacting with the Local Children ~ Prague
What else to see in the Old Town?

Powder Gate
Just a stone's throw from my hotel situated at the Republic Square in the Old Town. It was named as New Tower but was changed to its present name when it used to store gunpowder.  Climb to its 186 steps to reach the viewing platform and enjoy the views over the Old Town.

Powder Gate ~ Prague
Old Town Square
It is Prague's main market place being the city's heart since the 10th century. It becomes the scene of both glorious and tragic events up until now.  Here you will find Romanesque or Gothic style buildings beautifully painted in pastel colours. Come to the square for tourist information, restaurants, cafes, shops and galleries.

Church of Our Lady of Tyn ~ Prague
Church of Our Lady before Tyn
The entrance is decorated with scenes of Christ's passion and an altar on its walls with its most striking features.  It has a grand-sounding pipe organ and at times becomes the venue of concerts and musical events. The Church of Our Lady Before Tyn dominates one side of the Old Town Square.

Church of St. Nicholas ~ Prague
Church of St Nicholas
The church was formerly a church of a Benedictine Monastery and it now belongs to the Czechoslovakian Hussite Church.  This is decorated with beautiful paintings on the ceiling depicting the life of St Nicholas and St Benedict.  In summertime, it becomes another venue of concerts and other events.

Basilica Saint George
Old Town Hall
Over the centuries, many old houses were knocked down to give way to its expansion.  This is the place where you will find the Astronomical Clock or the Town Hall Clock (Orloj) mounted on the wall.  Come and see the main attraction ~ the procession of Apostles which is shown every hour. 

There are other buildings, churches, theatres, museums and streets that made the Old Town a "must-see".

Don't miss the Municipal House, Celetna Street, Church of St James, Estates Theatre, Carolinum, Kinsky Palace, Jan Hus Monument, House of the Two Golden Bears, Church of St Gall, Church of St Martin in the Wall, Church of St Giles, Bethlehem Chapel, Clam-Gallas Palace, Marianske Squire, Charles Street, Palace of the Lords of Kunstat, Clementinum, Knights of the Cross Square, Vaclav Havel Exhibition, Artbanka Museum of Young Art, St. Salvator Church, St. Clement's Cathedral and Rudolfinum Concert Hall.
Makakiko Restaurant ~ Prague
For the modern side of Prague, discover an endless array of bars, pubs, discos and festivals waiting for you, curious adventurer

Apart from these entertainment, shopping, eating, drinking and wearing out your digital camera, you may want to stroll into the rich green carpet of Prague's parks 

In the New Town, you will see a striking figure of the Dancing House alongside the river.  

You might also want to check in the New Town the Jindrisska Tower, Mucha Museum, Municipal House, Museum of Communism, National Museum, State Opera, Heydrich Terror Memorial and Wenceslas Square. There are so much to see in this ancient capital of Czech Republic. It is important to add that this country borders Slovakia, Austria, Germany and Poland.  With this information, you may be able to plan a trip that includes these neighbouring countries. 

Church of the Infant Jesus ~ Prague
Wish you a safe and memorable journey in Prague.


From the desk of: 
Freddie Miranda
A blogger and a Canada-based freelance writer. He shares the value of his travel experiences and discoveries with his friends and fellow travellers. Share your passion, join and visit him. Send him a message if you will @ fromatravellersdesk(at)gmail.(dot)com.












Saturday, 28 January 2012

Noreen Nanz of Cologne GERMANY

8. Featured Traveller
(Germany) 

 
 Noreen Nanz
English Teacher, Piano Teacher
Cologne GERMANY


"Try to meet some natives"

Title: A Whiff of Cologne

Other countries visited:  Most of the countries surrounding Germany - Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Austria, Switzerland, Czech Republic.  Luxembourg, Spain, Portugal, Hungary, Italy, Greece, Israel, Egypt, Australia, three hours in the Bangkok airport, and three hours in the Kuala Lumpur airport.  Of course, I've been to Canada - more times than I can count.  I grew up in Minnesota!

Nationality: USA

Country of Residence: Germany

Favorite means of transport:  bicycle

Countries I wish to visit in the future:  South Korea, Japan, Poland, Scandinavian countries. 

Farina Perfume Museum ~ Cologne
City covered in this blog entry:  Cologne

I'd like to give you a little whiff of Cologne.  Did you know that the fragrance is named after the city I live in?  The inventor of what we call Eau de Cologne was Giovanni Maria Farina (1684-1766).  As you can see, his name is Italian.  His factory still exists, and is the oldest perfume manufacturer that still exists.  Today it is a perfume museum, and I often take visitors there - they have tours in English.  

Farina was, like me, an "Imi" - what the people of Cologne call - not an immigrant, but an "imitation" -  someone from outside of Cologne who comes here to live and imitate the Cologne lifestyle.  As you can see, the Kölner believe that only the natives can get it right. They are very proud of their lifestyle.    

Cologne Cathedral (Courtesy of Köln-Touristik)
In the days of Farina, it was hard to immigrate to Cologne.  You had to be Catholic, and you had to have income and a trade useful to the city.  I'm not Catholic, but I do have a trade - the English language, and I make money for speaking it.  

I do not imitate what many people call a Kölner lifestyle, but I know many who live and love it. Some of them are even my friends.  They drink a kind of beer called "Kölsch".  I must say, I do like Kölsch.  Then, they speak a language called Kölsch.  I can't speak it, but I do have a postcard of famous Kölsch expressions hanging on my fridge.  My favorite is:  "Et es, wie et es." In German, that is, "Es ist, wie es ist."  It sounds very profound when you translate it into English:  "It is as it is."  What the people mean is, Things are as they are.  Don't get all worked up about it, since you can't change it anyway.  And I think there is a lot of wisdom in that.  Kölner drink a lot of Kölsch so that they won't get all worked up about it.  And they do manage to remain pretty easy-going, most of the time.  They have the reputation of being the most light-hearted people in all of Germany, drunk or not.  There is more beer drunk in Cologne per capita than in any other German city, thanks to Karneval.  During Karneval (same holiday as that in New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro), Cologne doubles in size, becoming a city of at least 2 million.  You see people dressed in silly costumes like clowns, pigs, jailbirds, or any other conceivable thing, walking down the streets, singing nonsense songs that are only sung in Cologne.  Here you can see an example of this.

I don't like Karneval because of all the rowdy drunkenness, and I can't get into the silliness. My son tells me, though,  that if you drink a lot of Kölsch, it can be a lot of fun, hopping from crowded brewery to brewery, joining arms with strangers who become brothers for a couple of hours, singing along to the music.  There are more brew houses in Cologne than anywhere else in Germany, and you can always strike up a conversation with somebody there, even when Karneval isn't being celebrated.  

A lot of Kölner, other "imis" and I try to escape during Karneval, fleeing to the Alps for a ski trip, or flying to the Canary Islands for sun and sand.  I usually stay home and go for a walk in the woods, or hole up at home, cooking gourmet meals with my husband, dining in the dining/living room, and then watching movies I've downloaded from the internet.  But sometimes we use the occasion to travel to some nearby country.  Belgium and the Netherlands are just an hour's drive away.  Paris is a five-hour drive away.  


Much as I love being able to travel just about anywhere in Europe easily from Cologne, I love coming back to the city, just like the natives.  I always look for the spires of the "Dom", whether flying or driving back.  I love the "Dom" - Germany and northern Europe's biggest cathedral.  It is the most popular tourist attraction in all of Germany.  I've been in there many times - on a tour, going to a church service, taking visitors there.  Every time I ride the tram into Cologne, I try to get a seat next to the cathedral side, just so I can see it again.  It looks so majestic, towering alongside the Rhine.     

Interior of Cologne Cathedral
There's lots I love about this city.  It's very cultured.  There are lots of museums.  You can go to really good concerts here, in any music style - classic, jazz, or rock.  It's great for hiking and bike riding.  There are beautiful forests in and around Cologne.  I can get together with fellow Americans any time I want through the American International Women's Club.  I love to eat good food - I am a foodie, and in Cologne there are wonderful restaurants of all kinds. Just outside of Cologne, in Bergisch Gladbach, where I teach and used to live, there are more Michelin star restaurants than anywhere else in Germany.  My husband and I ate once at Schloss Lerbach (http://www.schlosshotel-lerbach.com/en.html), and experienced perfection.  The food there is prepared in ways I could never, ever come close to replicating, and the whole thing is a fantastic aesthetic adventure.  It felt like entering something holy, like heaven, being there.  This, of course, is the epitome of fine taste.  But that's another thing I like about living in Europe - there is so much elegant taste, so much of what is solid, old, time-tested tradition.  Life is a bit slower here.

I love walking on the cobblestoned streets.  There is a lot of the old in Cologne.  Most of it has been restored - 90% of the city was destroyed in World War II, but there it is again.  The ancient survives here.  Cologne has been a city ever since the Romans first came here 2,000 years ago.  Now that is old!

But not stuffy.  Cologne is never stuffy - it's too dedicated to silliness to ever be stuffy. Comfortable, old, a bit dirty, comforting, yet inspiring.  People don't beat each up here over ideological differences here.  It is the most tolerant place I know.     

   
I like to travel by bike whenever I can, and there are good bike trails, even along the Rhine.  The weather is usually pretty mild, but it does rain a fair amount here.  Still, the minute the sun comes out, the people flock to the outdoor cafés and beer gardens.  

I like to shop at the farmer's markets - there are many in and around Cologne.  I also buy my meat from an organic farmer near Cologne.  We get eggs and homemade pasta delivered to our house.  We go walking with our dog in the fields - five minutes' walk from our house, and yet we live within the Cologne city limits!  


Cologne Cakes*
In my own blog, I focus on my thoughts and experiences of being a pilgrim, someone on a journey through life.  In one respect, you could say I simply ended up here in Cologne.  I came here because someone offered me a free trip if I'd watch her son for a couple of months.  It sounded great - I wanted a break from my job in New York City.  I fell in love with Germany, and then with my husband.  I went from infatuation to disappointment.  Now I would say I have a mature love for the place I live in.  I see its strengths and weaknesses.  I don't try to run away anymore when life is hard.  This is the place my journey has taken me, at least for now.  And it's a place you can settle down in, as well as pass through on a summer's day.

* Cologne Cakes~ One of the lovely cakes you can buy in Cologne bakeries.  This one with spires of the Cologne cathedral!

Note:  

I've written a book about Cologne, also called A Whiff of Cologne.  At the moment it's in my computer, but I plan to self-publish it.  If you like what you've read about Cologne and want to read more now, send me an email and I'll send you the manuscript.   

Contact information:  in Facebook
Email:  noreennanz@yahoo.com
Blog:  http://noreen-masterpieceinprogress.blogspot.com/

* * * * *

Are you a traveller who would like to share your travel story with our blog and our readers?  Then, I'd love to hear from you! 
Please email me at fromatravellersdesk@gmail.com

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Watch for these blogs! 
They all have been travelling for many years and I can guarantee that all of them have travel tips that all of us can learn and benefit from.  I have to thank all other fellow travellers who have responded to my invite.  I will definitely publish your stories as soon as I have completed the details.


     

 

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Trekking Mount Pinatubo

Written by: Renante Arcillas

Mount Pinatubo was once declared as a dormant volcano, meaning dead, inactive and something that is not to be feared of because it can be considered harmless.

Crater of Mount Pinatubo
Preluded by numerous Luzon earthquakes in the previous year, Mount Pinatubo erupted in June 1991 like a pretty woman experiencing a mood swing.  

The surrounding provinces of Zambales, Tarlac and Pampanga were devastated when mixture of water and pyroclastic materials furiously flowed towards towns and villages that led to millions worth of damages and loss of lives.  

In spite of our heroes' effort to recover and put the surroundings to normalcy, two U.S. military bases moved out of the country due to its close proximity to the volcano.  Mount Pinatubo is approximately 14 kilometres west of the former Clark Air Base, and 37 kilometres north of the former US Naval Base Subic Bay.

Mount Pinatubo largely became part of the earth's meteorological history for it changed its rapidly warming weather.  Because of the tons of volcanic ashes it threw into the atmosphere, it blocked the sun's heat from entering our planet and eventually cooled it down.  It is nice to know that after this 'suddenly awakened giant' did something horrible to most Filipinos, it still did something good.

Taking Photos in Mount Pinatubo

In May 2010, I had the opportunity to experience the new Mount Pinatubo. 

After almost two hours travelling by bus from Manila to the province of Tarlac, the 45-minute 4x4 vehicle ride and the 20-minute (or maybe it was 30 minutes for me) trek, we finally reached the mouth of the famous volcano. 

There were plenty of private 4x4 vehicles already parked when we arrived at the starting point of the trek. These vehicles are powerful enough to go up the mountain. The drivers are group of experts and they deal with this almost everyday. Let them drive you up. 

It is absolutely not advisable to use your own vehicle.

Swimming in Mount Pinatubo

I was amazed with the lake's wondrous beauty. 

The water was just perfect, a mixture of blue and green-turquoise-coloured crater lake that made me speechless and gave me the shivers witnessing it at closer view. Our tour guide told us that it could be murky shade of brown at times though. My photos won't lie.  

The view was breathtaking!

You can compare the majestic scenery to the landscape background used in the "Lord of the Rings" movie which was entirely shot in New Zealand, but instead of snow, it was lahar and other volcanic residue covered the mountain.

Carabaos in Mount Pinatubo
The crater-lake is now called Lake Pinatubo and a hot spot in Zambales. Subsequent rainfall cooled and diluted the lake, lowering the temperature and making it safe to dive in the water. We were made aware of its unimaginable depth but did not stop us as we jumped out with our life vests.  

The boats were designed like the ones in Burnham Park in Baguio City but these boats in Mount Pinatubo seem unsinkable.  With the combination of good boats, the best guides and smiling-faced paddlers, truly, the enjoyment of crossing Lake Pinatubo from end to end was on its highest level.  Parts of the landscape can give you the feeling that you are in another planet. It's really worth the trip. This adventure is worth remembering.

Just some piece of advice. 

Wear safe footwear when you go trekking here as there are plenty of sharp rocks and uneven path before you reach your destination.  Other necessities are bottles of drinking water, some energy food, flash light, trekking gear, hike shoes, sunglasses, extra clothes and swim wear.

Please keep in mind that this is not a beach.  It is a lake on the crater of a volcano.  Take precautions. 

 Swim at your own risk.

Author Bio: 
Renante is a writer, director, blogger, municipal councilor and a TV show host based in Santo Tomas, Batangas. He writes and directs events and travel coverages to most part of the Philippine islands. Ante as he is fondly called is the creator of a character "Super Talipa" shown to the public of his hometown.








Tuesday, 17 January 2012

The Incident in Paris that Touched our Lives

A lot has been said about Paris and what I am sharing about this beautiful place is the good feeling when my aircraft smoothly touches the tarmac of the Charles De Gaulle International Airport. It is a little over an hour flight from Copenhagen Airport (formerly Kastrup Airport) to CDG Airport in Paris.
  
I am not new to travelling when I decided to visit Paris. To my mind, coming here is an accomplishment that I consider a dream come true.  It is my longest stay in a city (next to Rome) on a 17-day tour of Europe.  Understandably, I make sure that I am not missing any of those well publicised famous attractions.

Avenue des Champs-Élysées  and Arc de Triomphe in Paris FRANCE Photo Credit: Freefoto
I already have a good impression of France right at the airport.

My taxi driver is such a humble, polite and patient human being. He is not in a rush on our way to Hotel Harvey close to Palais des Congres and Champs Elysees.

I recommend this hotel to my fellow budget-conscious traveller as it is cheaper than other hotels around with the same class and is a walking distance to Arc de Triomphe and other must-see places.


The Front Desk staff are so helpful and very professional. It doesn't matter how early in the day and late at night that I come to their rescue, there is always one who will make us really feel important. To think that I always make my reservation online, I do not have the slightest idea on how this will go.

Hotel Harvey is not even a 4-star hotel but the services that they are showing are far beyond my expectation. This hotel is just one of the many that offers excellent service. 

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

It's More Fun In The Philippines!


The new slogan of the Department of Tourism in its campaign to boost the number of foreign visitors to the country, has been met with both acclaim and derision.


The leakage of the slogan, “It’s more fun in the Philippines,” in online social networks way before its official launch was welcomed as free publicity for the country by Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr.
Tourism officials, however, do not have the luxury of having fun lurking on Twitter or Facebook to gauge public reaction to the re-engineered marketing campaign.


They need to work double time to finish the construction of the Philippines’ new tourism portal.

As of last weekend, netizens who logged on to www.itsmorefuninthephilippines.com see on the site’s index page could only see a slideshow of George Tapan’s photographs of climbing the Banawe Rice Terraces(with the text “Getting upstairs. More fun in the Philippines”); swimming with a whale shark (“Status updates. More fun in the Philippines”) and riding a banca (“Commuting. More fun in the Philippines”).

A brief statement in part reads: “Wherever you go in the Philippines, it’s the Filipinos that will make your holiday unforgettable… In fact, Lonely Planet guidebook calls us ‘among the most easygoing and ebullient people anywhere.’ Find out for yourself why it’s more fun in the Philippines. And make the most out of your next vacation.”

The website should be finished soon for it to make the most out of the curiosity-driven frequency of page hits. In the meantime, critics who slam the new slogan as a rip-off of a six-decade-old Swiss tourism advertisement should give their lament a rest and re-channel their energies into bridging the disconnect between the slogan and many of the nation’s realities.

Instead of complaining because of the DOT’s use of a supposedly pre-loved line (we give Jimenez the benefit of the doubt, that the campaign is no copycat), why not accept it as a challenge to prove that it’s indeed more fun here than in Switzerland or any other place on earth?

For a change, some critics might consider refraining from spoiling the fun, which they do by their constant mimicking of the shrew. Then, the rest of the naggers may lighten up and stop flagellating self and neighbor with their sarcastic litany (“Traffic. It’s more fun in the Philippines;” “Pollution. It’s more fun the Philippines;” “Robberies. It’s more fun in the Philippines;” “Bloody drinking and videoke sessions. It’s more fun in the Philippines.”)

Every Filipino knows in their heart of hearts that it takes more than just a slogan to vanquish the poverty and corruption that plague the land. Wasting time and energy fighting over the battle catchphrase does not help.

Source: Inquirer News

EasyJet launches 2012 cheap flight schedule

Airline
easyJet launches 2012 cheap flight schedule


easyJet has launched its summer 2012 schedule with a choice of more than 300 destinations. 

The announcement follows the airline’s recognition as Europe’s Leading Low-cost Airline at the World Travel Awards earlier this month. 

More than 110,000 flights are now on sale to destinations throughout Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, with 18 million seats available for travel from March 25th through to September 2nd 2012.

Capacity has been added to popular leisure and business destinations including Barcelona, Alicante, Madrid and Rome, making travel with Europe’s preferred airline even easier for passengers travelling from easyJet’s ten UK bases. 

With fares starting from just £21.99 (one way including taxes) passengers will benefit from the airline’s most comprehensive selection of destinations next summer - from traditional Spanish sunshine getaways and popular European city breaks, to more exotic holidays off the beaten-track to locations including Israel, Jordan and Morocco. 

Peak summer seats for easyJet’s newest base, London Southend Airport, will also go on sale for the first time with a choice of eight destinations; Amsterdam, Alicante, Barcelona, Belfast, Faro, Ibiza, Malaga and Mallorca. 

Paul Simmons, easyJet’s UK Director said: “With winter fast approaching, the launch of our summer 2012 schedule allows passengers to look forward and book early to secure the best fares for annual sunshine holidays and weekend getaways next year. 

“Business passengers can also benefit from easy and affordable travel to the widest range of European city destinations yet, to central airports at convenient times. 

“In addition to this we’re adding even more choice in 2012 with the announcement of a host of new destinations from our UK bases in the coming weeks – so watch this space.” 

Source: Breaking Travel News