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Showing posts with the label walks

Cordoba - Capital of Caliphates, Kingdoms, and Empires

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On any journey to the Iberian peninsula, it is easy to focus all of one's time, budget, and attention to the more popular and glamorous cities of Madrid, Barcelona and Lisbon. However one cannot truly appreciate the richness of Spanish culture, without experiencing the city of Cordoba.
One of the most important cities back in the Middle Ages, yet overlooked today, Cordoba has been inhabited for thousands of years; with its earliest inhabitants thought to be the Neanderthal humans whose fossils can be found all over this area of Spain.

* Later on becoming a Roman settlement, whose people left their mark by constructing this fascinating and sturdy bridge that still stands to this day running across the Guadalquivir River! 

Sights and Sounds of New York City - Part 1

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There is undoubtedly no other city as iconic as New York City, whose five boroughs of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Staten Island are rich in history, character, and culture; forever immortalized in numerous movies, TV shows, stories, and songs.
Originally a Dutch colony settled in 1624 named New Amsterdam, New York City has grown to become what is is now: the most populous and visited city in the US, home to the United Nations and the Statue of Liberty, the fashion, media, and financial capital of the world, the very symbol itself of the great United States of America.
And it is said that in New York City, even buildings, squares, and streets are world famous. Here are some of NYC's most famous tourist locations: Part One Times Square
* At the center of New York is the pedestrianized intersection of lights, sound, and spectacle known as Times Square.

A Night Walk Around Old Town Sevilla

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Definitely one of the advantages of staying in a hotel right in the middle of the city center is the ability to wander around and experience the city after the sun has gone down.
A Spanish city changes at night. Somehow it becomes even more vibrant and authentic as locals, offered a temporary respite from the hustle and bustle of the daily barrage of tourists, are now free to come out, dine, and socialize; the Spanish way of rewarding one's self for a hard day's work.

* And in Old Town Sevilla, the UNESCO World Heritage Site is wonderfully lit and conducive for romance.

Downtown Helsinki and Other Highlights

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Helsinki, capital of Finland, is your quintessential ideal European city: heavily pedestrianized, fantastic public transportation, full of green open spaces and mid-rise buildings, and a general feeling of safety especially for foreigners.
It is also known as the credit card capital of Europe; and indeed one can buy anything (even street food) with a Visa or Mastercard on hand! 

* A fact which came in handy in the city's Market Square!

Nara: City of Sacred Deer

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No trip to Osaka would be complete without a stopover at the enchanting city of Nara.
While history and culture buffs will love the collection of temples, shrines, and ruins that altogether make up the UNESCO World Heritage "Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara" list, most travelers come for a different activity all together: the feeding and photo opportunity with wild Japanese deer. Tōdai-ji Temple
* And the most popular location for this activity can be found on the grounds of Todai-ji Temple.

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!