Category: Travel Destinations

Discovering Prague’s own traditions

Discovering Prague’s own traditions

The cappuccino to be drinked in Prague’s Grand Café Orient is utterly mediocre, and that’s okay.

This is because the point is really the situation, however, is quite impressive: the coffee is on the second floor of the House of the Black Madonna, originally built in 1912 as a department store in architect Czech Cubist Josef Gočár and as of 2003, houses the Museum of Czech Cubism in Prague, an architectural and design movement that emerged, flourished, and disappeared here in about 15 years.

Having been neglected for decades, the East has been restored in spring 2005 to its original splendor rigorously angle. Everything is a replica of what once was: a huge polished brass lamps and silk shade is suspended from the ceiling, glossy white-beams, decorated with geometric paneling surrounding the mirror bar is finished to a high gloss, the benches flanking the half-octagon tables are covered with a replica of the original trim green and white.

Once visited almost exclusively by scholars and fans of architecture, today, coffee is a stop on the card is marked on the list of more than a hippie and the tables around me are filled with beautiful young local and a handful of travelers. Unless their presence, the room is a capsule in near-perfect of a place that exists here and only here for a little over a decade ago almost a century.

This is why coffee-under is not a problem, since the promise of a cup is in perfect condition all around me in a number of Italian coffee from Starbucks or chain-like in the bustling Old Town. But the restoration of love for the East Grand Café and, equally importantly, the warm welcome he received from citizens of Prague to talk about something interesting: a renewed affection between the Czechs for their own heritage and traditions, whether or Bohemia in the 20th century.

And it’s a new sensibility, a change from previous years throughout the city, full-throttle embrace of foreign cultures and distant influences a concern that was perhaps expected in a country whose borders were open if abruptly in 1989. Expectations of travelers powered by the 90’s booming air transport phenomena increasingly affordable and proliferation of culture Wallpapers for a growing number of so-called jet-set-up has to include the right inalienable have, for example, pitch-perfect Northern Italian cuisine or an “it” bag (or a perfect cappuccino), no matter where on the planet, they have touched, to Prague developed by leaps and bounds to meet these expectations. The local and foreign entrepreneurs have taken crafty like to invest in this new European capital which evolved so promising. In 2001, the city has offered cappuccinos with shovels and even a little “it” bags, and for good measure, a magnificent new Four Seasons Hotel, located on the river Vltava with Michelin-starred restaurant Allegro (still the best in the city, serving the pitch-perfect northern Italy, natch).

After seeing their city to reach the traps of the world situation and destination, however, a handful of creative residents began mining in Prague own traditions of food, art, design, inspired architecture. And they have been subtly but effectively change the look and feel of the city since then.

One of the first to see the promise of the indigenous culture of Prague was Janek Jaros, who for nearly a decade has been a champion of Czech Cubism of his gallery of modern city. Set a bit incongruous among the gift shops and vendors syrupy Celetná garnet along a popular tourist route in the historic city of Prague modernist emporium original Czech design.

The fortysomething Jaros manufactures reproductions of furniture, kitchen utensils, and china by the Czech Cubist’s best-known such as Vlatislav Hofman, and Josef Pavel Janák Gočár (House of the Black Madonna), and sources for hard to find a handful of original chip clients, among them London’s Victoria & Albert Museum. But only in the last two to three years that its local clientele relatively recently trained and ready to invest in their own aesthetic traditions began to develop. “Modernism has changed significantly over the past three years, and therefore the market. We’ll get back to basics, working with locals and expatriates living in Prague in the long term.”

Jaros has recently collaborated with the designers of the Rocco Forte Collection hotel of 101 rooms Augustine, which had its much-heralded opening last May, helping to source products for interiors. Housed in a 13th century Augustinian monastery, spread over seven buildings in the picturesque district of Mala Strana, the hotel offers Olga Polizzi, Director of Design Collection, a chance to delve into the history of design in Prague. “What is unique about Czech cubism is that they pushed the ideas of Picasso and Braque beyond what the movement in Western Europe has been producing,” she said. “In Prague, Cubism became buildings , decoration, printing, textiles. This is a very important, perhaps the most important period in Czech art.”

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All About Charles Bridge, Prague, Czech Republic

All About Charles Bridge, Prague, Czech Republic

The Charles Bridge is a famous historic bridge that crosses the Vltava river in Prague, Czech Republic. Its construction started in 1357 under the auspices of King Charles IV, and finished in the beginning of the 15th century. The bridge replaced the old Judith Bridge built 1158 – 1172 that had been badly damaged by a flood in 1342.

This new bridge was originally called the Stone Bridge (Kamenný most) or the Prague Bridge (Pražský most) but has been the “Charles Bridge” since 1870. As the only means of crossing the river Vltava (Moldau) until 1841, the Charles Bridge was the most important connection between Prague Castle and the city’s Old Town and adjacent areas. This “solid-land” connection made Prague important as a trade route between Eastern and Western Europe.

The bridge is 621 metres (2,037 ft) long and nearly 10 metres (33 ft) wide, resting on 16 arches shielded by ice guards. It is protected by three bridge towers, two of them on the Lesser Quarter side and the third one on the Old Town side. The Old Town bridge tower is often[vague] considered to be one of the most astonishing civil gothic-style buildings in the world[according to whom?]. The bridge is decorated by a continuous alley of 30 statues and statuaries, most of them baroque-style, originally erected around 1700 but now all replaced by replicas.

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All About Times Square in Manhattan

All About Times Square in Manhattan

Times Square is a major commercial intersection and neighborhood in Midtown Manhattan, New York City, at the junction of Broadway and Seventh Avenue, and stretching from West 42nd to West 47th Streets. Brightly adorned with billboards and advertisements, Times Square is sometimes referred to as The Crossroads of the World,

The Center of the Universe, the heart of The Great White Way, and the “heart of the world”. One of the world’s busiest pedestrian intersections, it is also the hub of the Broadway Theater District and a major center of the world’s entertainment industry. Times Square is one of the world’s most visited tourist attractions, drawing an estimated 50 million visitors annually. Approximately 330,000 people pass through Times Square daily, many of them tourists; while over 460,000 pedestrians walk through Times Square on its busiest days.

Formerly Longacre Square, Times Square was renamed in 1904 after The New York Times moved its headquarters to the newly erected Times Building, the site of the annual ball drop which began on December 31, 1907, and continues today, attracting over a million visitors to Times Square every New Year’s Eve.

Duffy Square, the northernmost of Times Square’s triangles, was dedicated in 1937 to Chaplain Francis P. Duffy of New York City’s U.S. 69th Infantry Regiment and is the site of a memorial to him, along with a statue of George M. Cohan.

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Ten things travel guidebooks don’t tell you

Ten things travel guidebooks don't tell you

If you don’t find a hotel or restaurant in a guide, a bad review may be why.

1. We’re already out of date.

After more than a week in $5-a-night hostels in Peru, Caitlin Childs was looking forward to a hot shower and a comfortable bed. But when she got to the Hotel Paracas, there was no hot shower, no bed – and no hotel. “It had been leveled in an earthquake the year before,” says Childs, a graphic designer and frequent traveler. It turned out her Footprint Peru Handbook – the latest edition – had been published a year and a half before her July 2008 trip.

Even without earthquakes, much of the information covered by guidebooks changes too fast for book publishers to keep up. Restaurants close, quaint markets lose their cachet, and trains change their schedules. If it’s essential to your trip, make a phone call before you go, says Peggy Goldman, the president of Friendly Planet Travel, a tour operator. Never rely on a guidebook for key information like whether you’ll need a visa to enter a country and how much it will cost, or what vaccinations you might need, Goldman says, because those facts can change rapidly. Although the guidebook’s web site may have more up-to-date information, travelers should still check with the consulate and look for CDC alerts for the latest information.

2. No news is bad news.

There’s simply not space in most guidebooks to include negative reviews – so a hotel or restaurant that isn’t in the book might not have made the cut for a reason, says Thomas Kohnstamm, a former Lonely Planet guidebook writer and the author of the memoir, “Do Travel Writers Go to Hell?” Guidebooks are also trying not just to inform but to sell potential travelers on the idea of a particular destination, he says. The end result: Every beach is beautiful, and the people of every country are “some of the nicest people in the world.” “It’s supposed to be an unvarnished take on places but you have to be pretty PC about everything,” Kohnstamm says.

It’s true that space is limited, so if something isn’t in the book, “there may be a reason,” says Ensley Eikenburg, the associate publisher of Frommer’s travel guides. The exception: “There are certain iconic places that can be overrated, and that’s something we encourage our writers to say,” she says.

3. We haven’t actually been there.

It’s called a “desk update”: Writers use the phone, the Internet, stories from other travelers and even old-fashioned books to research a destination, but they never actually go there. The practice is common throughout the travel industry, Kohnstamm says. And with tight budgets, some publishers simply never ask how writers are getting their information.

Eikenburg, of Frommer’s, admits that the company does desk updates, but only on a few titles that cover multiple countries, while Lonely Planet’s Americas publisher, Brice Gosnell, says that the company’s contracts with writers always require travel to the location they’re covering.

4. We’re relying on you to catch our mistakes.

There’s essentially no fact-checking process for most guidebooks, Kohnstamm says. “They might do a random check, but mainly they’re trying to rely on the writer” to get things right, he says. (Lonely Planet and Frommer’s say fact-checking is the writer’s responsibility.) In practice, and with the prevalence of the “desk update” (see No. 2), that may mean waiting for readers to point out errors or out-of-date information. Jeffrey Ward, the founder of Savvy Navigator Tours, says he once wrote to Fodor’s to let them know that the index to their South Africa guide was from a previous edition, making it very difficult to quickly look up restaurants or sites while out walking around. Ward says the company sent him a free copy of a corrected book within a couple of months.

5. That “easy” hike is only easy for experts.

In 2007, a 32-year old hiker died taking what a guidebook had described as the “easy way” up Tryfan, a 3,000-foot mountain in Wales. “The definition of ‘easy’ is relative depending upon your experience, your physical ability, your footwear, clothing and kit, and your party,” explains Chris Lloyd, a spokesman for the local Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue Organization. Death by hiking is fortunately uncommon, but Brian King, the publisher of guidebooks for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, says his organization frequently hears complaints from less-experienced hikers who feel the books make scrambling over boulders sound like an easy day’s stroll. “We could probably do a better job of accommodating the day hiker,” King says.

6. We ruined that secluded spot we mentioned.

Brian Ghidinelli thought he and his wife were the only tourists in Old Hanoi’s winding streets – until they walked into a Lonely-Planet-recommended restaurant, which was packed with other travelers, some with their own Lonely Planet Vietnam guides on their tables. “While we ate, several more pairs walked in with guidebook in hand,” Ghidinelli, an entrepreneur and experienced traveler, says. Accidentally walking into a tourist trap can have financial consequences, too. In Ghidinelli’s experience, hotels and restaurants recommended by the guidebook tended to cost 25% or 30% more than those that didn’t cater to tourists.

7. We’re terrified of your smartphone.

Ten years ago, guidebooks to popular destinations like Walt Disney World or Paris were common on the New York Times best-sellers list, says Michael Norris, a senior analyst for Simba Information, a market research firm that covers publishing and media. These days, the physical books just don’t sell as well as they used to, in part because so much information is now available for free online – TripAdvisor, anyone? – and can be accessed on the spot with a GPS-equipped phone.

8. Going to Estonia? We don’t really care.

Guidebook writers sent to less well-traveled destinations are often hindered by tiny budgets, Kohnstamm says, explaining that books about popular destinations command the majority of the companies’ resources. “The rest get sort of short shrift,” he says. Other publishers see it differently. Frommer’s doesn’t spend more on the more popular guides either, Eikenburg says. “If one of our customers buys our guide to Panama and it’s not accurate, then we’ve lost that customer to the competition when they go out and buy an Italy guide or an Alaska guide,” she says.

9. We’re tourists too.

Guidebooks can’t always be trusted for “insider” tips on what the locals eat, how they behave or what the cultural norms are in a country, says Bryan Schmidt, who has traveled to six countries on four continents over the last ten years. Guidebooks for Brazil, for example, will recommend places to get “authentic” feijoada, a traditional meat and bean stew – but Schmidt, whose wife is Brazilian, says even those meals are designed for tourists. Of course, some may see that as a blessing: The truly authentic dish involves “a lot of pig ears and pig snouts,” Schmidt says.

“It’s possible to overcome the challenge of not being from a place, but it just takes a lot of time,” says James Kaiser, the author of several independent guidebooks to national parks. Kaiser says he likes to spend about two years doing research so he can get to know locals and see how a place changes over time. Of course, even locals can make mistakes. Kaiser grew up near Acadia National Park in Maine, but his first guide to the area included a recommendation of a picnic spot for families that he came to regret. “Nude bathing was not uncommon,” Kaiser says. “I learned the hard way to triple-check my information.”

10. Don’t take all of our advice.

Some travelers feel guidebooks encourage a frenzied, see-it-all approach to tourism. “I have a really good friend who’s a lawyer, and she prepares for a trip the same way she prepares for a murder trial,” says Friendly Planet Travel’s Goldman. Relying on a guidebook for minute-by-minute planning robs a trip of spontaneity, she says. “The true reason for travel is the absolute thrill of discovering something all by yourself.”

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Holiday Stress: How to Avoid It

Holiday Stress: How to Avoid It

Holidays are supposed to bring rest and relaxation, but some families find them horribly stressful. With less time to enjoy, many people try to compensate by planning jam-packed itineraries, which can end up with exhaustion, arguments and disappointment. Here are some parent tips to consider…

Ease the ‘annual holiday’ pressure, if possible, by planning a few short breaks during the year. That way, the annual holiday won’t have the entire weight of your expectations upon it. It is also is a min-rehearsal for family travel, which does need a different kind of organisation than at home.

If possible, take longer annual holidays, rather than shorter. You have a better chance of feeling relaxed after three weeks away rather than just one. Action-packed itineraries could be intermingled with decent spells of ‘just bludging around’, so you don’t need a holiday from your holiday.

Preventing potential problems

Holiday stress can be brought on by bad luck, but you can avoid many potential upsets with forethought, planning and commonsense.

Research your intended location and accomodation very well.

Make sure you have adequate travel insurance. Check that it covers the needs of everyone in the family.

Pre-think your location and make sure you have enough sunscreen, insect repellant etc (all the specifics for that location).

If you’re keen to try out adventure sports with a family in tow, use the correct equipment and go with a reputable, well trained professional.

When travelling overseas, make 2 copies of all important documents (such as passports, travellers cheques and credit cards) in case of theft, keep one at home and pack one separately to the real thing.

Take extra pre-cautions when eating out to avoid common holiday gastro disturbances. Take a basic first aid kit. (be prepared to deal with basics.)

Travelling with young children

Ask your travel agent for family-friendly possibilities. Eg, you may prefer two-bedroom accommodation, or a facility with child-minding services, kids club etc.

Try to balance everyone’s needs when planning. The whole family should understand that everyone is there for a holiday so divide your day into adult choices and those more for kids. This definitely helps to avoid holiday stress. Keep it simple.

Just spending additional time together can be stressful. It is common to expect to have a good time on your holidays. However, in reality, during the year, most families only spend a few hours per day together because of work, school and other activities. Little habits could turn into holiday stress, even nightmares.

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It’s Time for The World Cup: Introducing South Africa

It's Time for The World Cup: Introducing South Africa

Every country in the world displays some diversity, but South Africa, stretching from the hippos in the Limpopo River to the penguins waddling on the Cape, takes some beating. It befits its position at the southern end of the world’s most epic continent, with more types of terrain than photographers can shake their zoom lens at.

There’s the deserted Kalahari, Namakwa’s springtime symphony of wildflowers, iconic Table Mountain and Cape Point, Kruger National Park’s wildlife-stalked savannah (scene of the famous lion-buffalo-crocodile battle watched more than 40 million times on YouTube) and, running through the east of the country and into Lesotho, the Drakensberg. KwaZulu-Natal’s iSimangaliso Wetland Park alone has five distinct ecosystems, attracting both zebras and dolphins.

If you’re interested in another kind of wildlife, hit the nightclubs on Cape Town’s jumping Long St or sample African homebrew in a township shebeen (unlicensed bar). When it’s time to reflect on it all, do it over seafood on the Garden Route, curry in Durban’s Indian Area, a sizzling Cape Malay dish, or a braai (barbecue) in the wilderness – accompanied by a bottle of pinotage produced by the oldest wine industry outside Europe.

Of course, it’s impossible for travellers to South Africa to remain oblivious to the fact that, despite the rise of ‘black diamonds’ (middle-class black folk), racial inequality persists here. Black and coloured townships face problems such as a horrific HIV/AIDS rate and xenophobic tensions caused by economic refugees from nearby countries.

Nonetheless, South Africans are some of the most upbeat, welcoming and humorous folk you’ll encounter anywhere, from farmers in the rural north who tell you to drive safely on those dirt roads, to Khayelitsha kids who wish you molo (‘good morning’ in Xhosa). Another point of unity in the diverse country is that, in malls and minibus taxis, bush pubs and shebeens, two popular topics of conversation are the 2010 FIFA World Cup and recent political upheavals. Most people believe that hosting football’s mightiest tournament will be as great a moment for South Africa as its Rugby World Cup triumphs in 1995 and 2007. And there’s still time for you to get over there and join the fun!

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