More than two hours of commute, meetings with clients, daily submission of reports, deadlines for clearing files – all this and more ensured that life perpetually remained in the fast forward mode among all of us. The weekend respite was just not enough to recoup your exhausted yourself. And one fine day you may decide to call it quits, heading back towards the hills to start life afresh. We are exchanging a fast and fashionable lifestyle of the cities for the slow and simple life of the mountains.
SOULFUL AND SOOTHING
The fact that people take a break from their hectic schedule and go to the hills to rejuvenate themselves speaks volumes about salubrious effects of cool climes. Even the afflicted are advised by doctors to recuperate in the hills. If possible. While life goes on at a leisurely pace in the mountains, it would be wrong to assume that it is bringing and uneventful.
RELAXING AND ADVENTUROUS
Whether one takes a stroll or just sits, enjoying the bounties of nature, it relaxes the mind instantly. For those with an adventurous streak, trekking and mountaineering are exciting activities which also help in understanding the topography better. Tourism related activities are not just attracting youngsters, but also paving the way for entrepreneurs to tap into its economical potential.
ENTREPRENEURSHIP AND EMPLOYMENT
Accessibility and connectivity have brought welcome changes to the remote hilly areas. The government, too, gives subsidies and soft loans, camps, hotels restaurants and home stays are generating business. If it is pollution which is making life difficult in cities, serene and peaceful life of hills are indeed calling many. Be it solo travellers or travelling in group, such trips to hills indeed give a refreshing experience and boost to ‘reverse migration‘ to the hills.
The capital and home of the Prince of Liechtenstein, Vaduz has a car-free center, allowing tourists the freedom to walk around freely, appreciating some of the many surviving medieval, Gothic, and Baroque structures. Older buildings stand next to more recent structures, like the black basalt cube that showcases the contemporary and modern art collection of the Liechtenstein Museum of Fine Arts. Vaduz Castle, the home of the royal family, overlooks the city from the hills that surround the city.
The Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein is the state museum of modern and contemporary art in Vaduz, Liechtenstein. The building by the Swiss architects Meinrad Morger, Heinrich Degelo and Christian Kerez was completed in November 2000.
SCHLOSS VADUZ LIECHLENSTEIN
Vaduz Castle is the palace and official residence of the Prince of Liechtenstein. The castle gave its name to the town of Vaduz, the capital of Liechtenstein, which it overlooks from an adjacent hilltop.
The Swarovski Crystal Worlds is a museum, located in Wattens, Austria. The museum was built in 1995 in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Austria based crystal company Swarovski.
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is world-famous for its canals it is built on an archipelago of 118 islands formed by about 150 canals in a shallow lagoon. The islands on which the city is built are connected by about 400 bridges. In the old centre, the canals serve the function of roads, and every form of transport is on water or on foot. Venice is universally considered to be the most beautiful city in the world because of this unusual urban design and its inestimable artistic heritage; it is included in the heritage of humanity projects protected by UNESCO and has the highest number of visitors of any Italian city, many of whom are foreign tourists.
The Patriarchal Cathedral Basilica of Saint Mark (Italian: Basilica Cattedrale Patriarcale di San Marco), commonly known as Saint Mark’s Basilica (Italian: Basilica di San Marco; Venetian: Baxéłega de San Marco), is the cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice,northern Italy. It is the most famous of the city’s churches and one of the best known examples of Italo-Byzantine architecture.It lies at the eastern end of the Piazza San Marco, adjacent and connected to the Doge’s Palace. Originally it was the chapel of the Doge, and has been the city’s cathedral only since 1807, when it became the seat of the Patriarch of Venice,archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice, formerly at San Pietro di Castello.
The tower is 98.6 metres (323 ft) tall, and stands alone in a corner of St Mark’s Square, near the front of the basilica. It has a simple form, the bulk of which is a fluted brick square shaft, 12 metres (39 ft) wide on each side and 50 metres (160 ft) tall, above which is a loggia surrounding the belfry, housing five bells. The belfry is topped by a cube, alternate faces of which show the Lion of St. Mark and the female representation of Venice (la Giustizia: Justice). The tower is capped by a pyramidal spire, at the top of which sits a golden weathervane in the form of the archangel Gabriel. The campanile reached its present form in 1514. The current tower was reconstructed in its present form in 1912 after the collapse of 1902.
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France’s capital, is a major European city and a global center for art, fashion, gastronomy and culture. Its 19th- century cityscape is crisscrossed by wide boulevards and the River Seine. Beyond such landmarks as the Eiﬀel Tower and the 12th- century, Gothic Notre-Dame cathedral, the city is known for its cafe culture and designer boutiques along the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré.
The Eiffel Tower is a wrought-iron lattice tower on the Champ de Mars in Paris, France. It is named after the engineer Gustave Eiffel, whose company designed and built the tower.
RUE DU FAUBOURG SAINT-HONORE
The rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré is a street located in the 8th arrondissement of Paris, France. Relatively narrow and nondescript, especially in comparison to the nearby avenue des Champs Élysées, it is cited as being one of the most luxurious and fashionable streets in the world thanks to the presence of virtually every major global fashion house, the Élysée Palace (official residence of the President), the Hôtel de Pontalba (residence of the United States Ambassador to France), the Embassy of Canada, the Embassy of the United Kingdom, and numerous art galleries.
It rises at Source-Seine, 30 kilometres (19 mi) northwest of Dijon in northeastern France in the Langres plateau, flowing through Paris and into the English Channel at Le Havre (and Honfleur on the left bank). It is navigable by ocean-going vessels as far as Rouen, 120 kilometres (75 mi) from the sea.
NOTRE DAME DE PARIS
Notre-Dame de Paris, also known as Notre-Dame Cathedral or simply Notre-Dame, is a medieval Catholic cathedral on the Île de la Cité in the fourth arrondissement of Paris, France. The cathedral is widely considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture.
The Louvre Pyramid is a large glass and metal pyramid designed by Chinese-American architect I.M. Pei, surrounded by three smaller pyramids, in the main courtyard of the Louvre Palace in Paris. The large pyramid serves as the main entrance to the Louvre Museum.
MUSEE D’ ORSAY
The Musée d’Orsay is a museum in Paris, France, on the Left Bank of the Seine. It is housed in the former Gare d’Orsay, a Beaux-Arts railway station built between 1898 and 1900. The museum holds mainly French art dating from 1848 to 1914, including paintings, sculptures, furniture, and photography.
PALAIS GARNIER OPERA
The Palais Garnier is a 1,979-seat opera house, which was built from 1861 to 1875 for the Paris Opera.
The Avenue des Champs-Élysées is an avenue in the 8th arrondissement of Paris, France, 1.9 kilometres long and 70 metres wide, running between the Place de la Concorde and the Place Charles de Gaulle, where the Arc de Triomphe is located.
The Pont Alexandre III is a deck arch bridge that spans the Seine in Paris. It connects the Champs-Élysées quarter with those of the Invalides and Eiffel Tower. The bridge is widely regarded as the most ornate, extravagant bridge in the city. It is classified as a French Monument historique since 1975.
Set in the 18th arrondissement, the charming hilltop Montmartre district (also known as “La Butte”) is a former artists’ village once inhabited by Picasso and Dalí, and home to the domed Sacré-Cœur basilica. There are sweeping views of the city from its steep, winding streets, while the iconic Moulin Rouge cabaret below draws tourists and nightclubbers. Retro-cool bars and eateries dot the edgy Lamarck area.
The Place de la Concorde is one of the major public squares in Paris, France. Measuring 18.8 acres in area, it is the largest square in the French capital. It is located in the city’s eighth arrondissement, at the eastern end of the Champs-Élysées.
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Thousands of tired, nerveshaken, over –civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity.”- John Muir, Our National parks
They say you have to climb a large mountain to appreciate how small you are and Switzerland offers ample towering for you to explore the world outside and the one within you.
Seeking a pleasurable high-altitude excursion? Head to the hamlet fo Schwagalp that’s a favourite with the locals. What you see are mammoth mountains enclosing you and free-roaming goats and cows dotting the hush greenlandscape while nibbling on fresh grass. Ride in a cable car that departs every 30 mints to the park of Mt.Santis. At 8209 ft it is the highest mountain in eastern Switzerland. In perfect weather conditions, you can get a 360-degree view of the five other countries-Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, France and Italy at the same time.
To get there: You can take a train to Urnasch or Nesslau from Zurich followed by bus.
One of Switzerland’s most scenic cantons, Uri can fulfill all your Alpine fantasies, and yet it remains non-toursity. It’s picturesque paradise where you’d want to stop to take pictures at every few steps. At the entrance of the romantic valley fo Brunni, a cable car takes you to Sittlisalp.
Once you arrive at the mountain station, you can venture on either a long or short mountain hiking trip, depending on your fitness level.
The Uri Canton offers ample river side spaces where you can barbecue and spend a sunny day outdoors.
To get there: Arrive in Fluelen by train and take a bus to Unterschachen.
At 7,000 ft, Mt Pilatus, also known as the dragon’s den, in central Switzerland is a must visit. While it’s located right outside Lucerne (around 15km from the charming Old Town), It’s hard to belive that such an out-of –the-ordinary setting can exist in proximity to the city. On a clear day, the mountain offers a panoramic view of 73 Alpine peaks. With inviting picnic spots, several summer hiking trails and mountains climbing routes with varying difficulty levels, a king-sized rope park that promises fun-filled adventure and the longest summer toboggan run- 1,350 meters of pure adrenaline- you can spend a day here. During your free time atop Mt Pilatus, you can indulge in a high-altitude lunch or coffee amid the peaks or relax on the expensive sun terrace.
THE GOLDEN ROUND TRIP: Take the boat from Lucerne to Alpanachstad. Get on the steepest (ascent 48%) cogwheel train to Pilatus. On your return, descent to Fräkmüntegg by the aerial cableway Dragon Ride and hop aboard the panaromic gandola to reach Kriens.
Krakow is the largest Christmas markets ofEastern Europe in Old Town, Poland. People here donning a Santa cap, holding a cup of grazaniec (spiced, hot Polish mulled wine), standing in the centre of the majestic Rynek Glowny (city’s medieval market square), listening to the soothing sound of church bells-I was transported to an other-worldly, enchanting setting.
RIDING AROUND THE SQUARE
Krakow dates back to the 7th century and has a long tradition of markets that play an important part of the city’s cultural calendar. But somehow, the Christmas market is the most special and eagerly anticipated one, as this is the time when the city is usually draped in snow, making it an even prettier sight for visitors.
The buzz is best captured in the main market square that plays neighbour to the ancient Cloth Hall and has an old-fashioned aura. To soak in the archaic surroundings of Baroque palaces and the archaic surroundings of Baroque palaces and the archaic surroundings of Baroque palaces and Gothic churches, here take the hundsome horse-drawn carriages that took you on the popular 30-min route from the market square to Wawel Hill
TO MARKET, TO MARKET
Apart from housing a tall, prettily-lit Christmas tree, the market square is lined with 80-100 rustic stalls offering everything from culinary creations to Christmas gifts and goodies by local craftsmen. Everything from glass baubles, ornaments and toys to festive candies, embroidered table cloths, local pottery and knitwear has a distinct Polish appeal. As with most European Markets, the aroma of hot food remains everywhere. Scents ranged from the juice of sizzling sausages and roasted pork to pierogi (stuffed dumplings), bigos (a cabbage and pork stew)and oscypek cheese-smoked cheese made out of salted sheep milk,a speciality of the Tatra mountains.
If you wish to pick one memorable experience, it would be Krakow’s most astonishing musical sight that requires a bit of neck-craning. Atop the splendid, GothicSaint Mary’s Basilica, one of the world’s most bizare trumpet solos can be heard. After the bell sounds every hour, a brass instrument unexpectedly appears from a window of the 65-metre – high cathedral tower and plays a five-note melody.
The Krakow Christmas market was a mini winter wonderland, even though a little touristy and crowded. But it generated enough Christmas warmth to overcome the winter chill.
PRAGUE (For time travel )
you’re in for a double treat. The city’s two main Christmas markets. In Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square, are a five-minute walk from each other.
BUDPEST (For festive food)
The biggest market runs at Vorosmarty Square in Budapest city centre. Stalls sell traditional Hungarian folk art and crafts. Sample delights like Kurtoskalacs (sweetbread).
UUBUANA (for lighting)
Ljublijana, Slovenia, boasts of a Christmas market with the most extravagant lighting.
RIGA (For the christmas tree )
The christmas tree at the medieval square is decorated with ornamets made of natural material.
TALLIN (For specail souvenirs)
Handmade Estonian crafts are bound to interest you.
Across the roiling waters of the Chao Phraya River, the other bank seemed quite distant even thought it was probably a five-minute ferry ride. The churning river was made more so as boats, ferries and larger cargo vessels sputtered up and down. There is a white structure with spires, which seemed to catch the sun’s early morning rays and glistened luminously rays and glistened luminously. Not without reason was it called Wat Arun, the temple of dawn, and seemed far more compelling than Bangkok’s other popular sights.
GO FOR THE UNEXPECTED
A Buddhist temple set dramatically on the river bank, Wat Arun is lesser known than the Grand Palace and Wat Pho, the temple of the reclining Buddha. For that reason it is also less crowded and makes for a lovely visit. Going back to the 17th century, the temple had a central Khmer-style tower surrounded by smaller ones, all of which were studded with pieces of beautiful porcelain in various colours arranged in eclectic patterns. It was Known to catch the first rays of the sun and hence the name. There were also surprisingly strong references to Hindu mythology with the central structure compared to Mount Meru and allusions to Ramayana.
Fascinated and a bit amazed by the unexpectedness of the place, your will quickly realized that this glitzy city had much more to offer than the obvious. Gigantic temples, swanky malls and street shopping, vibrant and fun nightlife, and stunning food at every corner were, of course, unmissable. But tucked away in corners were some gems which gave an inkling of Bangkok’s soul. Such as Jim Thompson’s House which is a museum of sorts. It showcases not only the American businessman’s efforts in popularizing Thai silk but also his architectural interest and art collection. Set amidst a thick jungle, the premises also has six traditional Thai houses which had been trans-located to provide a sense of local art and culture.
MODERN MEETS TRADITIONAL:-
Sampram riverside, located about 35 km to the west of Bangkok on the banks of the Tha Chin River. Sampram is spread over 70 acres of lush greenery with huts, traditional Thai wooden structures as well as water bodies. A family-run eco-cultural destination going back for over five decades and handled by three generations, it offers a variety of activities .The place provides an experience of authentic Thai hospitality with traditional Thai cuisine made from organic ingredients straight from the farm. Alongside are cultural workshops on clay modeling, flower arrangement, vegetable carving, bamboo and traditional dance and more.
CUT THE NOISE
Bangkok is known for its many floating markets with boats piled high with tropical fruit and vegetables, fresh, ready-to-drink coconut juice and local food cooked from floating kitchens located right on the boat. On the way back from Soojkai, there is Taling Chanfloating market located on the Khlong Chak Phra canal. It was filled with a smattering of colourful boats with equally colourful goods and merchandise.
As night fell, you can go to the more popular areas of sukhumvit, Nana, Thonglor Silom and headed instead to Ratchada Night Market in Din Daeng area. The place comes into its own around midnight. Totally atmospheric with a plethora of food stalls and al fresco pubs with rocking music, its ambience was mellow despite the noise, something far removed from the frenzy of other night spots. It seemed like the perfect place to end the trip.
THINGS TO DO:
GREEN LUNG: Garden Cafes are big in Bangkok. Water fountains, cherubic statues, glass villas, splendid gardens and ornate flower décor… there are over a dozne garden-seeting cafes your must explore to beat the monotony of conrete of the bustling metropolis.
GET SPORTY: If you want to try some adventure, head to the eastern outskirts for some wake-boarding (riding on a short board while being pulled by a motorcylce) at a Lake Taco.
LOCAL LURE: One of the most exciting things to do is to take a day trip and explore the water channels and the life built around it. In the old days, people in Bangkok travelled by boats along the river the connected to a series of canals (khlongs) running across the city. Take the long-tail boats through Bangkok’s canals and notice the interesting way locals live their life in traditions Thai houses build on stilts.
The south of Israel introduces the adventurous tourist to most of what the country has to offer – history, beaches, hilly hamlets and the magnificent Dead Sea. If you go Jerusalem from Tel Aviv airport, you will encounter surprising stretches of greenery on the way. But the kind of beauty you will encounter in Jerusalem put all of the aforementioned scenery to shame. Patches of colourful flowers at street junctions, quaint residences with graceful balconies and the lilting framework of the Old City on the fringes of the new settlements etched he city in our hearts in no time.
BACK IN TIME
One could easily spend a few days exploring every nook and cranny of the Old City but we managed to grasp the mystical significance of the Church of Holy Sepulchre and the Western Wall in a single day. At the Western Wall, it’s quite common to see Jewish men and women praying and weeping for the destruction of their temples in the past. By night, you will experience a sound and light show at the Tower of David, demonstrating the various invaders who tried to claim the holy land for themselves through history.
In your next stop in Israel, the Ein Gedi Kibbutz, one of several in the country and well-frequented due to its proximity to the Dead Sea. But before that, you can stop at Ein Karem, a village so beautiful, it was straight out of a fairy tale. Nestled in mountains and greenery, this little town was the birth place of St John the Baptist and is a popular pilgrimage site for Christians. You can enjoy a long stroll on tree-fringed paths, encountering churches and a holy spring on the way.
At Ein Gedi, you can stay in individual, rustic cottages with little verandas made cool and fragrant by the tall trees waving in the ever present breeze offered by local community. The community also houses a wonderful botanical garden, full of indigenous plants. Rubbing myrrh leaves between our hands and then inhaling its Biblical fragrance was a magical experience, as was witnessing the sun rise above the Judean Mountains at 6 am. At the Ein Gedi Desert Institute, if you get chance to see a Nubian ibex (mountain goat) near your stay.
The Dead Sea being the saltiest sea in the world, allows humans to float without any movement. Half an hour of soaking in its unique composition of salts and minerals was enough to leave us feeling uniquely rejuvenated. Many also apply the curative mud from the banks of the sea, followed by an outdoor shower and a dip in a warm sulphur pool.
More you can visit to the resort town of Eilat, famous for the Dolphin Reef, Underwater Observatory and Marine Park and, of course, the Red Sea which is actually deep blue in colour. Walking along the winding canal in the night and passing by energetic bars, fairs and al fresco restaurants will be experience to cherish.
On the whole, Israel charmed us with opposing elements contributing to a social, political environment, pulsating with energy.
As the Shinkansen (bullet train) hurtled at a dizzying speed from Tokyo, the passing Japanese countryside was a blur, save for the occasional majestic sight of snowcapped Mount Fuji. Everything else whizzed by in a haze. It was also incredibly silent inside the train till it reached Osaka apart for the sporadic announcement. And then all hell broke loose!
Stepping into the Shin-Osaka train station was like being hit by a wall of sound. A million loud conversations swirled around, unlike the relative noiselessness of Tokyo. A bigger surprise was on the escalators: people stood on the right, in contrast to Tokyo’s left, and stark initiation into Osaka’s contrariness, and why it was called the ‘anti-capital’. In fact, everything was a bit different; even the Osakan dialect was both lilting and rougher. And conversations were colourful as were the streets and the people.
PULSATING WITH LIFE
As first impression went, Osaka seemed like an urban sprawl gone awry. But from the Harukas 300 observatory on the 60th floor of the Abenobashi Terminal building, the cityscape seemed lovely, made more so by Yodo river and its tributaries cutting through the city. From up there, the city looked serene and felt restful, but was altogether different on the ground. it did have its sights such as the Osaka castle, an impressive Japanese-style structure with moat and gardens, Shrine, Shintennoji temple, Sumiyoshi shrine, the aquarium and puppet shows. But the city and its ground. It did have its sights such as the Osaka Castle, an impressive people were more compelling reason: an ancient 6th century city, Osaka, however, was never part of Japan’s political scheme of things. But rather than sulk, it chose to build its own quirky image and reputation; something that seemed to have been a thumping success.
Even during the day, the city’s bright neon lights were flashing. But one could still spot the city’s soul between its pulsating shopping districts. In Dotonbori, the most popular shopping area with towering complexes and streets packed with eateries, I glimpsed a bit of old Osaka. Narrow stone alleys disappeared into the distance and opened suddenly into little courtyards with Buddhist temples, which unapologetically rubbed shoulders with izakaya bars and hole-in-the-wall restaurants.
As I wandered around Shinsaibashi, Midosuji and Amerikamura, I was buffeted by waves of indulgence. Massive shopping centres competed for clientele and a noisy buzz filled the air. Local and global brands, luxury and everyday products, hip and vintage wear competed with souvenirs and trinkets. At Ebusibashi, the shops spilled with masses of youngsters hanging out noisily.
But as much as shopping was front and centre, it was more a foodie paradise. Not for nothing did Osaka have the nickname tenka no daidokoro (Japan’s kitchen) and wore it proudly. Food was everywhere –street food, tiny eateries, cafes, pubs, smart restaurants… At its heart were some of Osaka’s most popular dishes: street snack takoyaki, fritters stuffed with octopus; okonomiyaki, a cross between an omelette and a pancake, heaped with meat, seafood, noodles, shredded cabbage and sauces; kushikatsu, deep fried skewered vegetables, meat or quail eggs; kitsune udon, a thick noodle soup heaped with fried tofu, and much more. For the adventurous, there was also fugu, poisonous pufferfish!
As the day turned into evening, the whole place got a bit more frenzied and yet, there were little islands of calm which provided the perfact spot to watch as another Osaka day came to a close.
A 3-km trek through the lush green forests of Chaurangikhal takes one to Nachiketa Tal. It is an attractive spot amidst dense forests, and is situated between Panchangaon and Fold Gaon. Verdure all around and small temple at the band of the lake gives a serene picture postcard look to the beautiful surroundings.
Near By Places to visit:
Khattukal Village (a village hugging the sides of the mountain)
Singurney Village (village temple and nice view of the mountain and Ganga)
Bonga Village to Sankurna
Shikreshwar circle around Uttarkashi (beautiful view of Uttarkashi town and seven Himalaya snow peaks)