Monday, November 30, 2015

9 Places you need to Visit in Istanbul to live the history all over again.

9 Places you need to Visit in Istanbul to live the history all over again. 

Coveted by empires across the centuries, straddling both Europe and Asia, Istanbul is one of the world's great metropolises. Founded around 1000 BC, the colony of Byzantium grew into the Byzantine Empire's great capital of Constantinople and after the Ottoman conquest of the city, retained its glorious place as the heart of their empire. The city (officially renamed Istanbul after the founding of the Turkish Republic) is liberally scattered with glorious remnants of its long and illustrious history ,and the sightseeing here will impress even the most monument-weary visitor.

As well as the big four (Aya Sofya, Topkapı Palace, Blue Mosque, and Grand Bazaar) leave enough time to explore the many other sights. Although many tourist attractions are located in, or near, the old city district of Sultanahmet, there is a dazzling array of other tourist attractions throughout the further reaches of the city.

1. Aya Sofya

It's said that when the Byzantine Emperor Justinian entered his finished church for the first time in AD 536, he cried out "Glory to God that I have been judged worthy of such a work. Oh Solomon, I have outdone you!" The Aya Sofya (formerly the Hagia Sophia) was the emperor's swaggering statement to the world of the wealth and technical ability of his empire. Tradition maintained that the area surrounding the emperor's throne within the church was the official centre of the world. Through its conversion to a mosque after the Ottoman armies conquered Constantinople to its further conversion into a museum in the 20th century, the Aya Sofya has remained one of Istanbul's most cherished landmarks.

2. Topkapı Palace (Topkapı Sarayı)
First built by Mehmet the Conqueror in the 15th century, this glorious palace beside the Bosphorus is where sultans of the Ottoman Empire ruled over their dominions up until the 19th century. The vast complex is a dazzling display of Islamic art with opulent courtyards, lined with intricate hand-painted tile-work, linking a warren of sumptuously decorated rooms, all bounded by battlement walls and tower.

Of the many highlights here the most popular are: the Harem (where the sultan's many concubines and children would while away their days); the Second Court where you can walk through the vast Palace Kitchens and stand in awe at the dazzling interior of the Imperial Council Chamber; and the Third Court (which contained the sultan's private rooms) which displays an impressive collection of relics of the Prophet Muhammad in the Sacred Safekeeping Room, and is home to the Imperial Treasury where you're greeted with a cache of glittering gold objects and precious gems that will make your eyes water. To fully see Topkapı Palace, you'll need at least half a day.

3. Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Camii)

Sultan Ahmet I's grand architectural gift to his capital was this beautiful mosque, commonly known as the Blue Mosque today. Built between 1609 and 1616, the mosque caused a furore throughout the Muslim world when it was finished as it had six minarets (the same number as the Great Mosque of Mecca). A seventh minaret was eventually gifted to Mecca to stem the dissent. The mosque gets its nickname from its interior decoration of tens of thousands of İznik tiles. The entire spatial and colour effect of the interior make the mosque one of the finest achievements of Ottoman architecture.

4. Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarnıçı)

The Basilica Cistern is one of Istanbul's most surprising tourist attractions. This huge, palace-like underground hall, supported by 336 columns in 12 rows, once stored the imperial water supply for the Byzantine emperors. The project was begun by Constantine the Great, but finished by Emperor Justinian in the 6th century. Many of the columns used in construction were recycled from earlier classical structures so feature decorative carvings. The most famous of these are the column bases known as the Medusa stones in the northwest corner with their Medusa head carvings. A visit here is very atmospheric with the columns beautifully lit and the soft steady trickle of water all around you.

5. Istanbul Archaeology Museum

Just a hop, skip and jump away from Topkapı Palace, this important museum complex brings together a staggering array of artifacts from Turkey and throughout the Middle East and sweeps through the vast breadth of history of this region. There are three separate sections in the complex, each of which are worthy of a visit: the Museum of the Ancient Orient; the mainArchaeology Museum; and the Tiled Pavilion of Mehmet the Conqueror, which holds a staggering collection of ceramic art. As well as all the wonderful artifacts on display, don't miss the interesting Istanbul Through the Ages exhibit room in the main Archaeology Museum.

6. Grand Bazaar (Kapalı Çarşı)

For many visitors sightseeing in Istanbul is as much about shopping as museums and monumental attractions, and the Grand Bazaar is where everyone comes. This massive covered market is basically the world's first shopping mall; it takes up a whole city quarter, surrounded by thick walls, between the Nure Osmanıye Mosque and Beyazıt Mosque.

Entrance is through one of 11 gates from where a maze of vaulted-ceiling lane-ways, lined by shops and stalls, cover the area. The various trades are still mostly segregated into particular sections, which makes browsing easier.

7. Dolmabahçe Palace

The sumptuous and ornate Dolmabahçe Palace shows the clear influence of European decoration and architecture on the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century. Built by Sultan Abdul Mecid I in 1854, it replaced Topkapı Palace as the main residence of the sultans. The formal gardens are punctuated with fountains, ornamental basins and blooming flower beds while inside the sheer splendour and pomp of the Turkish Renaissance style is dazzling. The interiors mix rococo, baroque, neoclassical and ottoman elements, with mammoth crystal chandeliers, liberal use of gold, French-style furniture and dazzling ceiling frescoes.

8. Chora Church (Kariye Müzesi)

Chora means "country" in Greek and this beautiful Church (originally called the Church of St Saviour of Chora) lies just outside old Constantinople's city walls. The first Chora Church was probably built here in the 5th century, but what you see now is the building's 6th reconstruction as it was destroyed completely in the 9th century and went through several face-lifts from the 11th to 14th centuries.

The church (now a museum) is rightly world-famous for its fabulously vibrant 14th century mosaics, preserved almost intact in the two narthexes and fragmentary in the nave, and the frescoes along the walls and domes. These incredible examples of Byzantine artistry cover a wide range of themes from the genealogy of Christ to the New Testament stories.

9. Yedikule Fortress (Yedikule Hısarı)

Although it's a bit of a schlep on the suburban train to get out to Yedikule, this commandingfortress is well worth it. Built in the 5th century by the Emperor Theodosius II, the fortress made up the southern section of Constantinople's defensive walls. The mammoth arch (blocked up in the late Byzantine period) was known as Porta Aurea (Golden Gate) with doors plated in gold. When the Ottomans conquered the city they used the fortress for defense, and later as a prison and execution place. Yedikule has been restored in recent years and you can climb up to the top of the battlements for superb views across the Sea of Marmara.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Things you should NEVER miss in Thailand.

Do you think that you know everything about Thailand? Have you seen all the great places and temples? Do you find Bangkok boring?

We will change all of that. As we will be discussing things, you may have never heard of but are real and so much fun. A great reason to visit Bangkok with Holiday Factory and explore new things, traditions and festivals.

Let's start!

Annual Phuket Vegetarian Festival:

The Phuket Vegetarian Festival is a colorful event held over a nine-day period in October, celebrating the Chinese community's belief that abstinence from meat and various stimulants during the ninth lunar month of the Chinese calendar will help them obtain good health and peace of mind.
Though the origins of the festival are unclear, it is commonly thought that the festival was bought to Phuket by a wandering Chinese opera group who fell ill with malaria while performing on the island.
They decided to adhere to a strict vegetarian diet and pray to the Nine Emperor Gods to ensure purification of the mind and body. To everyone's amazement the opera group made a complete recovery. The people celebrated by holding a festival that was meant to honour the gods as well as express the people's happiness at surviving what was, in the 19th century, a fatal illness. Subsequently the festival has grown and developed into a spectacular yearly event that is attended by thousands with participants flying in from China and other Asian destination\

Starts on 13th October until 21 October
More about it:

Annual Monkey Buffet Festival:

One of the country’s most unusual festivals is the annual Monkey Buffet, held in front of the Pra Prang Sam Yot temple in Lopburi province. More than 600 monkeys are invited to feast on over two tonnes of grilled sausage, fresh fruit, ice cream and other treats. The locals see it as a thank you to the monkeys which inhabit the village and bring thousands of tourists there each year.
For this we have a man by the name of Yongyuth Kitwattananusont to thank. Back in 1989 Kitwattananusont, a hotelier by trade, gained sponsorship and assistance from TAT – the Tourism Authority of Thailand – to launch his inaugural festival for the benefit of the monkeys’ stomachs, the town’s peoples’ wallets and the tourists’ holiday memories. Now the festival pulls in thousands of visitors every year bringing in much welcome income for Lopburi’s restaurants and hotels.

Khun Yongyuth also takes great enjoyment from the festival and he attempts to make each year a bigger and better spectacle from the previous one. One year saw him dressing up in a monkey costume and floating into the festival by parachute while in 2013, he aims to increase the already magnificent buffet by offering those cheeky monkeys over 4,000 kilograms worth of food!
And boy do those monkeys make the most of their buffet; they don’t care whether it’s good for the town’s collective bank balances or if it gives the tourists great photos to take home and share with their friends and family on Facebook or Twitter – they’re just happy to be able to gorge themselves and fill their furry stomachs to such excess one day a year. They’re probably also quite fond of the added opportunity to be able to grab some extra cameras or bags from unsuspecting tourists too! You have to wonder what these kleptomaniac monkeys do with all the things that they steal; do they store them all somewhere? Do they use them to trade with other monkeys? Have they secretly mastered how to take photos of their babies and upload them to Instagram?

Starts on 28th November until 29th November

Koh Phangan - Full Moon Party
Some time ago, a group of tourists found that the most beautiful moon was in Koh Phangan. They arranged a party along the crescent-shaped beach of Haad Rin to celebrate the Full Moon night. From then on, people from all over the world come to join the celebration...
And now there are 10,000-30,000 people at the party each month. The party  begins at dusk, When the round yellow moon makes its appearance over the  white sand beach. In twilight, small tables are lined up on the beach and thousands of lamps are lit...
As the evening progresses  the beach explodes into a dancing frenzy as different m.c.'s take their  furn on the decks. There is something for everyone here, trance, techno,drum and bass, commercial dance and reggae, no-one is disappointed. Jugglers and fire-eaters entertain the crowds as the night goes on and with the brilliant impromptu fireworks display, the party atmosphere is complete. After a few hours it could be time to chill-out for a while, maybe grab a drink or a bite to eat from one of the many beach traders and wade out or sit down in the warm surf of the Gulf of Thailand, pure, pure heaven.
Revived and relaxed it's time to return to the main beach and get blown into another dancing dimension, While all around people are doing the same, there are no barriers here, no inhibitions, just people enjoying themselves with one unified intention, to rejoice in the magic that is the paradise of FULL MOON PARTY!

Happens every month, on a specific date. So check here to catch it:

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Explore the Magical Ruins in Delphi and get Apollos Advice - Greece

Explore the Magical Ruins in Delphi and get Apollos Advice 

After the Acropolis, Delphi is the most popular archaeological site in Greece. Located 180 kilometers from Athens, a trip to Delphi is listed in just about every tour itinerary and is by far the most popular day trip out of Athens.

Many people don't even know why they are going to Delphi. It's just something they know they are supposed to do when they go to Greece. But for those people who read, Delphi has a special meaning, more than just another collection of ruins in a country that is full of them. Delphi in ancient times was considered the center of the known world, the place where heaven and earth met. This was the place on earth where man was closest to God.

In Mythology, Delphi was the meeting place of two eagles, released by Zeus and sent in opposite directions. Where they met indicated the center of the earth. Delphi is known as the center of worship for the God Apollo, son of Zeus who embodied moral discipline and spiritual clarity. But even before the area was associated with Apollo there were other deities worshipped here including the earth goddess Gea, Themis, Demeter and Poseidon, the well-known god of the sea. By the end of the Mycenaean period Apollo had displaced these other deities and became the guardian of the oracle. Delphi was to become a panhellenic sanctuary, where every four years, (starting in 776 BC) athletes from all over the Greek world competed in the Pythian Games, one of the four panhellenic games, precursors of the Modern Olympics.

The oracle of Delphi was a spiritual experience whereby the spirit of Apollo was asked for advice on critical matters relating to people's lives or affairs of the state. Questions were asked to the Pythia, or priestess who 'channeled' the spirit of the God, in the same way that people now channel Jesus or the various other disembodied spirits who have not only helped people with their advice but kept their channelers on the tops of the best seller lists. Whether one believes in the channeling of Gods or spirits is an individual thing. But even the most skeptical person must realize that there was something 'magical' going on in Delhi for several thousand years and the fact that the town still attracts a million visitors a year makes us believe some of that magic is still there. Many people who come to Delphi claim they have felt 'something'. I suppose it depends on your receptivity and your belief system. But there are those who believe that the spirit of Apollo still resides in Delphi and just as he was thousands of years ago, he is still available now, to answer questions and give personal advice or affairs of the state. One might keep in mind that a visit to Delphi is also on the itinerary of visiting dignitaries and the list of Greek politicians who have not visited the sacred oracle would be a short one. Just food for thought, but visiting Delphi with an open mind may be an enriching experience.

As the reputation of the oracle at Delphi grew, the sanctuary began to develop into an international center as the Greek city-states brought offerings. Remember that this was before the age of paved highways and tour buses and a trip to Delphi was like the proverbial passing of a camel through the eye of a needle, on difficult mountain paths or climbing from the valley below. As the area grew in wealth it developed into an independent state which was governed by the aristocrats. It became the center of a 12 member federation called the Amphictyonia which was a sort of League of Nations which unified the small city-states. Built on the slopes of Mount Parnassos, the town and ancient site are as awe-inspiring now as it most likely was three thousand years ago, overlooking the Gulf of Corinth and a valley filled with olive and cypress trees. The town of Delphi sits on the edge of a cliff and despite the number of tourists and the abundance of tourism oriented businesses, this is still a very remarkable place to be. Hotels are plentiful, there are two campgrounds within a few kilometers of the town and numerous restaurants including the Taverna Vlachos, recommended by Lonely Planet and featuring a beautiful view of the valley as well as good food at reasonable prices.

The center of Delphi is the sanctuary of Apollo, on the southern tip of the mountain slope. The Doric temple was the home of the Pythia, who seated on a tripod above a deep crevasse, would pronounce her prophesies while the priests wrote them down and translated them to the people. The mythology is that when Apollo slew Python, its body fell into this fissure and fumes arose from its decomposing body. Intoxicated by these fumes, the pythia (sibyl) would go into a trance, allowing Apollo to possess her spirit and spoke, with the priests translating or interpreting what she was saying. This temple was destroyed by fire in the fourth century BC and then rebuilt. Carved into the temple were three phrases: "know thyself" "nothing in excess" and "make a pledge and mischief is nigh" which are as meaningful today as they were when they were written even though I am personally confused about the meaning of the last one which sounds like it comes from my local NPR fund drive. The origin of these phrases was attributed to one or more of the Seven Sages of Greece though there is some debate about this and some believe that these were just popular proverbs at the time and were later attributed to the Sages of Greece.

The theater was also built in the 4th century and further above is the large stadium which was famous for its chariot races, renovated by Herod Atticus and considered the best preserved in all of Greece.

The Sacred Way leads to the temple, passing the treasuries and monuments that commemorate great events. In ancient times this road was lined with statues and gifts given by the city state in tribute to Apollo in thanks for victories in battle. The treasury of the Athenians has been reconstructed. My favorite is the Treasury of the Sifniots since it is a reminder of a period when my favorite island was one of the wealthiest areas in Greece. The frieze of the treasury is now in the archaeological museum along with many artifacts from the site including the omphalos, the sculptured cone that stood in the exact center of the world and the famous bronze statue of the Charioteer, one of the most celebrated pieces of ancient art in the world.

Below these ruins are the Temple of Pronoia Athena, also known as Marmaria, or the marbles supposedly because of the abundance of ancient stones laying nearby. The Tholos is probably the most widely recognized building on the site because of the color of the marble and the fact that it is a round temple, not all that common in Greece. Strangely enough what the temple was used for and who it commemorates is not known. Beyond is the Gymnasium and the Palaiastra which were used to train the athletes who competed in the Pythian games, held every four years to commemorate Apollo's victory over Python. The Castelian spring is where pilgrims washed themselves before consulting the oracle and the crystal clear water still flows from it has it has for thousands of years.

In my opinion the oracle at Delphi poses an interesting question which every person should ask himself during the visit, unless he is just going there to see old buildings, or because it was on a list of somebody's list of things to do in Greece. Lets say that the oracle, whether it was the voice of Apollo or some spirit, actually spoke to the ancient Greeks for all those centuries and it was not some scam or a form of mass hysteria, but something which we don't understand because it follows different rules than those we have grown use to living on planet earth in the 20th century. If people actually did communicate with the God at this sacred spot is it likely that the spirit went away or died ? Did it get bored and pack up its holy baggage and move on to some other new sacred site like Sedona, Arizona, or whither away like fruit on a tree that goes unpicked? Or is it more likely that the God still goes on speaking and we mortals have lost our ability or desire to listen. Maybe there are people who still communicate with whatever spoke and perhaps continues to speak to mankind in Delphi. Maybe all it takes is an open mind and heart to hear a voice that for centuries distributed wisdom to mankind.

So if you go to Delphi listen with your heart. Someone or something may be talking to you.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

6 Secrets about Maldives, you have never known about!

The Maldives is one of the world’s most romantic destinations, but you’d be forgiven for not knowing that it can also be a place, where even the most avid adventurer would be at home. The Maldives is renowned for its luxurious resorts that offer intimate settings, but it’s also home to breath-taking dive sights, deserted islands, ship-wrecks and plenty of hidden gems that you might not have heard about. How many of the ‘secrets’ do you know?

Secret 1: Submarine diving  
The Maldivian capital of Male has an array of multi-coloured skyscrapers that takes over its spectacular skyline, but it’s actually under the waves where the most breath-taking sights unfold. View the underwater magic whilst staying dry, and experience something that’s usually reserved for those in a wet suit. 

The ‘Whale’ submarine reaches depths of 150 m and for those who don’t dive, this is the perfect way to see the exciting creatures that inhabit the Indian Ocean. The cabins are fully air-conditioned, and with normal atmospheric pressure, you’ll breathe normally as you discover the wonders that lie under the sea.
Secret 2: Underwater bedroom

The Maldives is packed full of stunning hotels, with luxurious settings, but one that really sticks out is the underwater bedroom on the remote Rangali Island. Located 5m below the surface, you’ll have the opportunity to sleep under the sea, and spend the night ‘sleeping with the fishes’.

Reached only by a spiral staircase, you’ll have the opportunity to wake up and witness one of the most unique views on the planet. By day the underwater bedroom is a restaurant called ‘Ithaa’ and seats 12 people – so if you don’t fancy sleeping underwater and paying £8,000 for the privilege, then maybe some gourmet ‘fusion Maldives cuisine’ could be an acceptable alternative.

Secrets 3: Deserted islands

One of the great things about the Maldives is that with over 800 of its 1190 islands deserted, isn’t really that difficult to find some private paradise. If you venture to Addu City you’ll find Bodu Hajara, where you’ll have no problem creating your very own ‘Robinson Crusoe’ experience. OK, so Mr Crusoe didn’t have a butler service or an array of gourmet cuisine, but being surrounded by nothing but the Indian Ocean in all directions, will no doubt make you feel like you’re the only one left in the world. Kanuri in Kolumadulu is another great spot for a romantic picnic on a deserted island.

Secret 4: True experience dive sites

The Maldives offers some of the best dive spots in the world, but most people will venture to the more well-known sites in Ari Atoll. For those wanting something a little more romantic, and more rewarding, then head to South Male Atoll. The area is remote and offers a more intimate dive spot, in a region that follows a more authentic Maldivian way of life.

Secret 5: Whale shark diving

When swimming with sharks, it usually involves being lowered into the water with a cage wrapped round you. The Maldives changes this cliché, and in the region of South Ari Atoll you’ll find a unique experience, with one of the most visually stunning creatures on the planet – the whale shark. Growing up to 40ft in length, this striking species can also weigh up to 21.5 metric tonnes. Whilst the stats are intimidating, whale sharks are non-aggressive, and known to be very playful and docile in their nature. They are a firm favorite with advanced snorkelers, divers and swimmers.

Secret 6: Seaplane airport

OK, so the seaplane isn’t so much of a secret, but what you don’t normally find out until you arrive is how much fun you can have at the airport! Whilst the seaplane transfer is a must experience in itself, it’s those little luxuries pre-flight that make the trip worthwhile.

Whisked off to the VIP area on arrival, you’ll enjoy refreshments, and plenty of opportunities to relax after your long flight into the Maldives. Spa treatments and champagne are usually on the menu (please check exact details before you book your seaplane transfer, as they can vary), before taking off and enjoying offering panoramic views of the lagoons and islands scattered across the Indian Ocean. 

Monday, October 5, 2015

Paris Charms not only with it's romanticism!

1. The Eiffel Tower

All travelers always place Eiffel Tower as the first thing to visit in Paris. So shall we start with it. The reason of placing Eiffel Tower on the top of the list is first, it's looming construction, second, the breathtaking view of the city and third, the energy and buzz of the place. 

2. The Catacombs of Paris

Paris is known as city of Romance, but that's not it! It has a darker side which needs to be discovered too. This underground burial complex houses six million skeletons dating to the 18th century. Stacked in endless corridors, it’s a fascinating and haunting place. If you have the courage, it’s one of the most interesting places in Paris to see.

3. Musee Du Louvre

Who doesn't know Leonardo Davinci's painting Mona Lisa, which is placed in the famous Museum in Paris along with thousands of other artistic artworks. An entire holiday can be spent in Du Louvre as it is vast and packed with masterpieces at every turn.

4. The Pantheon - Paris

Well i thought Pantheon is in Rome! Isn't it? Yes it is, but Paris also has one which was originally built as a church dedicated to St. Genevieve and to house the reliquary châsse containing her relics but, after many changes, now functions as a secular mausoleum containing the remains of distinguished French citizens. It's not much visited but it's ranked as one of the best things to see in Paris.

5. Palace of Versailles

A monument to the decadence of royalty and a constant draw for vast numbers of visitors, Versailles is simply astonishing. And if the massive opulent palace isn’t enough, the gardens will simply blow your mind. Representing ostentatious beyond measure.

6. Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris

It's very difficult to express how fabulous this place is. Let's start with it's Outer Architecture & Sculpture which is a Masterpiece! Every detail of this art is a long story told by the walls of this place. Don't fear the Gargoyles as they are watching over the place and give it a beautiful sense of a scary yet peaceful place. Whoever attended the mass in the Church, was thrilled with the angelic voices of the choir that fill the place. Totally worth visiting!

7. Sainte Chapelle

After researching about how to describe this place, i found a lady who perfectly described everything i wanted to write: "Visiting Sainte-Chapelle is like entering heaven encased in a jewel box of stained glass. Arching panels upon panels of glass describe the story of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, in rich colors and sumptuous detail. The sheer height of glass gives one the impression of looking up into eternity." Nothing more to say!

8. Musee De Cluny

A hidden gem in the heart of Paris, Musee de Cluny is a medieval museum nestling within an ancient Roman bath complex. In fact, this tucked away treasure is one of the very best remnants of the ancient Roman city which would become Paris. If you’re seeking interesting places to visit in Paris, this is hard to beat.

9. Pont Neuf & La Conciergerie

Pont Neuf is the oldest bridge in the city. You will pass through it for sure while visiting any place in Paris.Be careful! As it will charm you and force you to take lots of pictures on it.

And La Conceirgerie is as impressive for the architecture as for the history and exhibits, this famous former prison lies in the heart of the city. You can still visit the old prison, including Marie Antoinette’s cell, and its convenient location means it often appears on most itineraries of places in Paris to visit.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

7 reasons why Vienna is the new capital of cool!

For the last few years, Vienna has been sitting pretty at the top of a number of surveys as one of the best cities in the world to live in; thanks to high standards of living and an overdose of culture and history on every street corner. As lovely as this sounds it doesn’t exactly summon the hipsters in their droves, enticing them away from the known capitals of cool like Berlin and Barcelona. What will, however, spark the coolest of the cool’s interest are the following seven reasons you should also consider for visiting Vienna and soon!

1. Nibble at the Naschmarkt

Arguably Vienna’s most famous market, Naschmarkt does what it says on the tin and what it’s name “Nasch” means is nibble. This is not only a farmer’s and street food market where you can try a range of international cuisines from falafel to mango lassis, but there are also vintage and antique stalls to peruse.

2. Hang out with Hugo in a Beach Bar

The Tirolean drink Hugo isn’t just a drink for the Alps, with cities like Innsbruck and Vienna making it their own. This cocktail mixes prosecco, elderflower cordial and soda water to make a refreshing aperitif that carries through even in the cooler months of autumn and winter. You can find it being served to the trendiest in the ‘beach bars’ that line the Danube Canal. For an even more unique bar experience, hop on board the Badeschiff, a converted ship now home to a bar and restaurant.

3. Feel free In Freihausviertel

Next door to Naschmarket is Freihausviertel, Vienna’s trendiest area full of bars, cafes and restaurants screaming for people to see and be seen in. This is the part of town that never sleeps, so head out to one of the late night bars like Transporter Bar or the “industrial chic” Zweitbester with its rotating DJs and chefs – who are sometimes the very same people!

4. Taste the best Wienerschnitzel in Wien

Even hipsters eat schnitzel, the most famous of Vienna’s culinary offerings and the Figlmueller claims to be the best of the best. You can expect the lovingly prepared huge slab of schnitzel to hang over your plate and though the décor can’t claim to compete with the coolest places to eat in town, the waiters do wear geek chic bowties, though we suspect it’s not in the ironic fashion that the trendies do!

5. Get lost in Humana for a good cause
Humana is the name of a charity which finances relief and project work in Africa and Asia; through the sales of second hand clothes and textile recycling. While this is a wonderful thing in itself it also means that Vienna is home to a huge Humana secondhand clothes shop that keeps vintage lovers and bargain hunters happy while also supporting a good cause.

6. Visit Mumok

Found within the surprisingly modern and designer friendly Museumsquartier of Vienna, Mumok is the city’s modern art museum. Though exhibitions change regularly, the focus on modern and contemporary art stays the same, which means that design junkies can easily get their fix of the latest artistic and photographic works by Viennese and international artists.

7. Read, sit, listen & watch at Phil
Phil is a treat for anyone who wants to assault all the senses at once; as it’s a bar that also serves as a furniture store, library, record shop and a live music venue. Don’t plan on just popping in for a few minutes, this place needs to be enjoyed for a few hours, especially if they’re showing a film or hosting some live classical music.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Magic of Georgia! Get to know it Better

Until recent times, Georgia was a destination reserved for the most intrepid of travelers. However, Georgia has been attracting more and more people, who are drawn in by the stunning mountains, delicious cuisine and warm hospitality of the country. There is certainly no shortage of sites to check out, but you can start with our top 10 most beautiful Georgian towns.

Georgia’s jewel of a capital city, Tbilisi still manages to retain a small-town feel in many of its charming neighborhoods, despite the fact that it’s the biggest city in Georgia. When you fly into Tbilisi, you won’t know where you are, in place or in time. Georgia is suspended between Europe and Asia in the incredibly diverse Caucasian region, and Tbilisi is a veritable showcase of Georgian culture, history, and architecture. Get lost wandering around the sometimes overwhelming bazroba, or market; go find all the best places for khachapuri and wine in the newly-redone Old Town, hike up to the Narikala Fortress or visit Mother Georgia to get a beautiful view down onto the city.

On a good day, it takes about four hours to go the 128 kilometers that separate Mestia from the nearest bigger town, Zugdidi. However, you’ll see that it’s worth it as soon as you step out of the car into the mountain paradise that is Mestia. It’s been inhabited for centuries by the Svans, a nation related to the Georgians, with their own language and cuisine. This is a perfect jumping off point for hiking, as it’s at a very high altitude in the Caucasus mountains. If you’re lucky, you might get to go into one of the old Svan towers, which have been around for centuries and which many families still make use of in various ways.


Inhabited since the Bronze Age, Telavi is an important place for historians, as it has so many historical monuments preserved from so many different eras. Telavi, now the de-facto capital of the Eastern region of Kakheti, spent many centuries as a very important city in the whole Caucasian region. It was home to King Erekle II, who built it into an important political and cultural center in the 18th century, and now it’s still possible to visit his palace. Aside from the historical buildings, Telavi borders the Alazani Valley, where much of the famous Georgian wine comes from, and offers a stunning view of the Greater Caucasus Mountains.


Stepantsminda, named after a Georgian Orthodox monk who once built a hermitage in the area, is a true mountain fairytale. Nestled into the Greater Caucasus, with the only road to the South barely accessible in the winter months, it is a testament to human determination. Stepantsminda’s most well-known monument is the Gergeti Trinity Church, which is located on the mountain directly overlooking the town. As you hike up to it, a tough but worthwhile trek, you can imagine the work that went into building a church in such a place. Once you get there, you’ll be rewarded with mountain air fresher than you can imagine and a view down onto Stepantsminda and out across the gargantuan mountains surrounding you.


It is impossible to overstate either Mtskheta’s importance to Georgia or its overall charm and beauty. Located at the confluence of two rivers, Mtskheta from above is stunning – a possible reason why it has been inhabited since at least 1000 BC, making it one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. It was also a site of early Christian activity in Georgia, which was one of the first countries in the world to accept Christianity as their religion. It is now the cener of the Georgian Orthodox Church, and the Svetitskoveli Church is the most important monument of that religion. Especially since the recent renovation of the old town, it is an excellent place to see old Georgian architecture at its finest.

Known as the Georgian City of Love, Sighnaghi has been one of the government’s first major points of focus in terms of expanding tourism in the country. However, it also has a long history leading up to that. Another place inhabited for several thousand years, Sighnaghi, despite its population of only just over 2,000, has one of the most beautiful town centers that you’ll find anywhere. It’s a fantastic place to taste Georgian wine, as it is right in the middle of wine country. It also has some additional cultural significance to Georgians, because the Bodbe Monastery, only 2km away, is home to the remains of St. Nino, one of the Georgian Orthodox Church’s most important saints and namesake to countless Georgian girls.


This is Georgia's ultimate seaside resort - those looking for the finer things in life, or just a simple summer escape, will have no problem finding such joys in Batumi. Take a stroll along the newly built Boardwalk, and enjoy the variety of sculptures lining the Black Sea's Stoney beaches. You'll also see the colorful buildings and the palm trees, and there's no shortage of luxury sea resorts. If you're ready for an adventure, try a Black Sea sand scrub and be prepared to have the smoothest skin you've ever had.


Borjomi is known throughout the former-Soviet world as the source of Borjomi mineral water, a salty panacea (or so the Georgians say) for everything from a cold to a hangover. There is a small resort built up around the spring, where you can try the water for yourself straight from the source. It has a salty, sour, sulphuric taste, but even if salty water isn't something you relish, you'll love the verdant surroundings of the lush forest and the rushing creeks that run through them. Borjomi is also a well-loved national park, so it's a great place to come and focus on your health and the beautiful landscape surrounding you.


Located in the north west of the country, Zugdidi is where the royal history of Mingrelia meets the rugged Georgian way of life. The former Mingrelian capital was home to the Mingrelian royal family, and two of their palaces can be found in this charming city in the foothills of the Caucasus. A Dadiani price married Napoleon Bonaparte's sister, so history buffs will be thrilled to find one Napoleon's death masks at the Dadiani palace - only three of these were made. For adventure seekers, take the time to explore the surrounding villages, where you can still feel the ghosts and witness the scars of the 2008 conflict.

Ushguli, a collection of villages high in the Svaneti region of Georgia, has enough cultural significance to be on the UNESCO World Heritage List while also being extremely difficult to reach. It is connected to Mestia, and only about 200 people live there. However, it boasts the best-preserved collection of Svan towers in the entire region, and of course the surrounding mountains, offer stunning views to any nature-lover. One of the best ways to get there is by horse from Mestia, which allows you to really delve into the spirit of a region that has remained comparatively cut off from the rest of the world.