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Showing posts with the label walks

Fushimi Inari and the Shrines of Kyoto

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Along with the futuristic megacity of Tokyo and the foodie heaven of Osaka, no trip to Japan would be complete without visiting its cultural capital, Kyoto.
Home to the Japanese imperial court for over a thousand years, Kyoto is full of palaces, temples, shrines, and gardens; which thanks to not being targeted by Allied bombing during World War II, has been preserved in all its authenticity. This is Part 3 of our Kyoto Series: Shrines.
Fushimi Inari-Taisha

* And hands-down, the most requested photo spot in all of Kyoto, is this pathway leading to Fushimi Inari-Taisha. Prepare to battle with dozens of tourists over what is essentially the same shot (lol!).

Viking Route on the Baltic Sea: Sailing From Sweden to Finland

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While sailing across the Baltic Sea has historically been of the raiding type (i.e. Vikings sailing along the coasts of Scandinavia, Northern Germany, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Finland), there is a much more extravagant, comfortable, and blood-less way to get around, and that is via an overnight cruise.
Here are some memories from our voyage from Stockholm, Sweden to Helsinki, Finland.

* Our home for tonight, the dazzling Silja Serenade: full of restaurants, indoor pools, duty free shops, a night club, casino, and several drinking spots (hurrah!).

Crossing No Man's Land: A Journey from Finland to Russia

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The end of the Cold War in the early 90's ushered in a lot of positive changes for Europe: military deescalation, the emergence of democracy in the former Soviet Bloc countries, a more relaxed atmosphere across the continent, and the opening of tourism. Finally, Western tourists found themselves being able to take a peek behind the Iron Curtain and actually visit Russia itself. 
From Finland's capital, Helsinki, we drove past the densely wooded countryside of Finland, into the no man's land that signified the neutral zone between the former adversaries of the Soviet and Western powers, and finally into Russia.

* Unlike border control procedures within the European Union, the experience of entering Russia is an adventure in itself! Entry can take over a couple of hours with immigration officials having the discretion to take as much time as they wish.

The Charmed Life: Osaka Castle and Kuromon Market

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It is a fact of life: people LOVE amusement parks! And while most visitors to Osaka may come for Universal Studios, some of us get our culture fix by exploring castles, temples, markets, and souvenir shopping areas.

* Osaka Castle is one of Japan's most famous landmarks and is a must-see stop when visiting the city.

Portugal to España. Ola Sevilla!

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After exploring Portugal's imperial capital, Lisbon, and its nearby seaside resorts and medieval towns, we prepared to make our way to España.
Portugal and Spain, together, make up the Iberian Peninsula, and have a common history of both Muslim and Christian rule; yet they also share a common history of standing apart as separate kingdoms.

* The Humberto Delgado Airport, also known simply as Lisbon Airport, is Portugal's main gateway to the world.

Novgorod: The Birthplace of Russia

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While the general public is very much aware of Moscow, as the capital of the Russian Federation and the former Soviet Union, and of St. Petersburg, the most European and Imperial of all Russian cities, few know the history, vastness, and grandeur of the early Russian people.
Russia in all its greatness started as a small city in the patch of land directly between Moscow and St. Petersburg; the city known as Novgorod.

* It was my great pleasure and honor to be able to visit and explore the Cradle of Russian Civilization.

Gamla Stan: Stockholm's Medieval Quarter

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The Gamla Stan is Stockholm's old town, located on the island of Stadsholmen, full of medieval buildings, cobblestone streets, and picturesque alleyways. If you have but a few hours to spare in this majestic city, every minute of it spent here is a minute worth spent.

* When in Stockholm, to find one's bearings, one must look to the sky.

Dotonbori Walks: Welcome to Osaka!

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Osaka, home to over 19 million inhabitants, is Japan's second largest metropolitan area after Tokyo, and is unofficially known as the country's culinary center. The city is also a great starting point for one to explore the nearby cities of Kyoto, Nara, and Kobe.
Personally, I preferred my experiences in Osaka visavis Tokyo. While both are sprawling megacities, full of neon lights, and efficient citizens, somehow I always felt that Osakans were warmer as a people, and that I could more easily find my bearings here.

* And the most popular tourist destination in Osaka is without a doubt Dotonbori, famous for its neon lights, shopping selections, and street food.

The Portuguese Palace of Sintra

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Sintra is one of Portugal's most visited (and Instagram featured) tourist destinations! 
A triumph of Romanticist architecture, the town is stocked-full of areas to explore: palaces, ruins, historic estates, villas, gardens, cafes, and Michelin star restaurants.

* And from this view, we can see why Sintra is one of the Iberian peninsula's most sought after real estate markets; home of some of the wealthiest people in the European continent!

Stockholm: City of 50 Bridges and Pop Music

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There really is something special about them Scandinavians. From the land of the "world's happiest people", Denmark, we now travel across the narrow strait, to the "world's cleanest country", Sweden. And lets not forget the land of attractive blonde men and women, Swedish meatballs, pop music hits, and ABSOLUT Vodka.
At the center of all of this is Stockholm, capital of Sweden; a city spread out across fourteen islands, linked by over fifty bridges.

* Stockholm is exactly how I imagined it to be: architecturally impressive, progressive, extremely walkable, and clean.

The Incredible Metro Stations of Moscow

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Usually, city attractions take the form of monuments and squares, museums and palaces, boulevards and shopping plazas; but sometimes, the sights shine most brightly underneath the surface.
Touted as one of the most comprehensive, most efficient (minimal delay rates), and most well-maintained train stations in the world, the Moscow Metro can also add to its list of accolades the title of most beautiful and most nationalistic. And indeed, several of them are tourist attractions in itself!

* The adventure starts at ground level! Built during the Soviet era, the Moscow Metro is the perfect example of the State proudly exhibiting its most positive virtues: nationalism, productive citizens, efficient systems, unification, organization, and coordination. 

Moscow At Night - The Sleeping Beast

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Evenings in Moscow are breathtaking. While generally not as safe to walk around in as compared to other great European cities, there is still much to be explored, gawked at, and admired. 
Here are several shots of this glistening, sleeping beast.

* The Radisson Royal Hotel, once the Hotel Ukraina and tallest hotel in the world, was personally commissioned by Joseph Stalin to look this incredible.

A Walk Around Quirky Copenhagen

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Denmark is considered one of the most developed countries in the world. Economically, while the Danes have INSANE income tax levels which range from 45% to 60%, Danes have access to FREE education, health care, and welfare protection.. which are ALL of excellent quality! 
Income inequality is low; which means that the gap between the wealthy and poor is miniscule. Social mobility is high; which means that a person's status can actually go from poor to rich based simply on merit or how hard that person works. Corruption levels are one of the lowest in the world. Per capita income is one of the highest in the world, I guess, to make up for the high income tax. 
Furthermore, the Danes enjoy and practice a wider range of freedom and civil liberties as compared to other countries in the West. One truly FEELS free here, like you're part of an ideal society.
No wonder the Danes are referred to as the "happiest people on earth"!

* Like most European cities, street performer…

The Kremlin: Home of Vladimir Putin

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At the very heart of the beast that was the Soviet Union stands the fortified complex known as the Kremlin. Separated from Moscow's iconic Red Square by thick impenetrable walls, the Kremlin was for Centuries the official residence of the Russian Tsars.

* And this fine tradition continues to this day, as the Kremlin is the home of Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation. He lives in the Kremlin Senate building, which is obviously the most secure part of the fortress.

Eccentric Tokyo: Harajuku and Other Peculiarities

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Japan is a country of extreme contrasts! A country where futuristic skyscrapers coexist with ancient feudal parks and temples, where a culture of honor and respect coexists with the craziest TV shows known to man, and where a polite and friendly people can also be eccentric and quirky!
Here are some of my favorite shots of these peculiarities.

* Animals playing musical instruments with no tone, rhythm and tune.. perfectly normal here in Harajuku!

Tokyo: What Happens When Sci-Fi Becomes Reality

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Home to a mind-boggling 13 million people, the metropolitan area of Tokyo is a sensory overload every step of the way. Everything in this mega-city looks, smells, sounds, and feels extraordinary.. like one is in a blockbuster movie, or 15 years in the future.
And my first piece of advice for any first-time traveler to Tokyo, is to just let the city swallow you! Don't even try to make sense of anything, open yourself up to everything.. and don't forget to look up!

* Shibuya is known as Japan's fashion center and is where all the cool kids go to drink and party.

The Awesomely Insane Hotels of Macau

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Completely exploring all of Macau's 5-star hotel casinos is an almost herculean (borderline insane) task. I consider myself lucky to have been able to appreciate two of them: City of Dreams and The Venetian.

* Developers in Macau weren't kidding when they said they would outdo Las Vegas in terms of extravagance and craziness! This futuristic looking walkway is JUST the entrance of City of Dreams!

Macau, One Night in HK, and Back Again

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64km away from the gambling paradise that is Macau, lies its equally world-famous cousin, Hong Kong. Apart from being shining beacons of Eastern-Western coexistence, both cities share a special bond being the final two European colonies (British Hong Kong and Portuguese Macau) in Asia.

* Our adventure begins at the Macau Maritime Ferry Terminal; with this lemon yellow ship and steampunk looking spheres.

When All The Tourists Have Gone Away

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...Venice becomes eerily beautiful!

* People like to joke that Venice is one giant tourist trap!

How To Skillfully Navigate Venice

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Short answer: Don't! 
To anyone but local Venetians themselves, Venice might as well be a labyrinth. Built over an archipelago of 118 islands linked by bridges, the city is a real challenge to accurately navigate that one might as well purposely wander around and trust in the gods to find the way back home. 


* A few random turns and we find the infamous Bridge of Sighs (in the far background). Local legend has it that it was called so as this was the bridge leading to the prison from the Doge's Palace, and convicts were known to "sigh" as they got one more glimpse of the beauty of Venice before being incarcerated.