#TravelTips: 24-hours in Brussels

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WHERE TO PARTY

This place called Le Mirano used to be a cinema before it was became a club. Fuse is known to be the biggest nightclub in Brussesls with DJs from all over the world spinning there. Divided into three floors, while the top two floors play hip-hop, house and jungle, the lowest floor is dedicated to techno.

Falstaff in lower town has been in business since 1904. Also in lower town is A La Most Subite has a rustic look to its interiors and is always full to its capacity. La Fleur En Papier Dare has been a popular spot since 1846 specially with popular artists.

Brussels has a very active night life and if you are game, the city promises you a night you will remember for a lifetime, and maybe even beyond!

WHAT TO EAT

When in Romans, do what the Romans do. But you are in Brussels and this place has quite a few food items which are famous the world over. Chances are that most of us have tasted these foods in our own countries or elsewhere but there is no bigger joy than travelling to the place which is famous for a particular dish and tasting the dish there!

So, Mussels, you must taste, provided you eat them of course. a staple that is available in just about any cafe across the city, the most common way of eating mussels is having it steamed in white wine.
What the world knows as french fries, is frites in Belgium. Forget about where these fries originated from, focus on who perfected it with the two-fold fry recipe. Again, available just about anywhere, from trucks to shops, I suggest you pick them up and much on the go.

What we call meat stew is Stoofvlees in Belgium. Made by slow cooking beef in beer, this dish is served with the beef is redy to melt in your mouth.
Did you know the the Belgians love meatballs? Served with Belgian cherry sauce or with tomato sauce, made of beef or pork – take your pick and dig in!
You can also try the grey shrimp croquettes when in Brussels. Of course, there will be belgian waffles to try as well!

WHERE TO SHOP

If you want to shop for brands, you can very well head of to the malls. However, the real shopping done at any new city is when one goes into the street markets and buys local ware. Brussels has numerous streets markets and I’d advice you step over to them for two very important reasons – 1) you can shop local, and 2) you can actually mingle with the local scene, people, and culture!

Rue Antonie Dansaert, Rue Bailli, Chaussée d’Ixelles, Rue Neuve and Avenue Louise are some of the most frequented and largest shopping streets in Brussels. Don’t forget to add them to your itinerary if you are heading over to the wonderful city of Brussels!

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#TravelTips: 24-hours in Amsterdam

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With this post, I enter the #AtoZChallenge of blogging in which I will be writing about things to do in cities listed in alphabetical order. For today, we have Amsterdam.

Cycling is the most preferred mode of commuiting amongst the people of Amsterdam. So, when there, hire one. The city has more than 8,00,000 cycles so one can imagine how convenient cycling around is. It is easy to maneuver, takes you everywhere and the city being bike friendly, cycling everywhere actually acts in your favour.

Amsterdam has something for everyone –  be it arts & exhibition, concerts & music, performing arts, museums, festivals, events, film and cinema. Here is a rundown of few things you must cover if you have 24 hours to spend in the city.

Anne Frank House

This is a part of history one shouldn’t miss. Even if you have never heard of Anne Frank, this is a good time to find out more and visit the musuem. The museum is open on all days of the week. This is the place where Anne and her family hid, and yes, this is where she wrote her diary. You can find out more about the timings, price or ticket and what else can be seen at their website http://www.annefrank.org/

FOAM Museum

The FOAM museum is an international photography organisation based in Amsterdam. If you are even remotely interested in photography, you might want to head over here. The museum is open on all days of the week though the timings differ. You’ll need to buy tickets which can be done from their website http://www.foam.org. You can be part of an ongoing tour or attend any of the current photo exhibitions.

Blue Boat Tour Company

Canal cruises in Amsterdam are absolute must and Blue Boat Amsterdam Canal Cruises give you the perfect ride which you deserve. You have the option of city canal cruise, open boat cruise, hard rock burger cruise, kids cruise, dinner cruise, and more. The experience is grand and once in a lifetime. Not only that, this gives you the wonderful opportunity to explore the city in a different manner. Know more about this at https://www.blueboat.nl.

Hermitage Museum

When one mentions the Hermitage Museum, what comes to mind is the one in Russia. However, there is a branch of the same museum at Amsterdam! Located in a building which dates back to 1861, it is at present the largest satellite museum. The musuem houses two very prominent and permanent exhibitions – Matisse to Malevich and The immortal Alexander the Great. If you wish to visit the place, learn more at their website http://www.hermitage.nl/en/.

Night Life

The nightlife scene at Amsterdam is on fleek and there is something for everyone – be it festivals, bars or night clubs. There is this option called the Amsterdam Nightlife Ticket which you can get from IAmsterdam, and gain unlimited access to eight different Amsterdam nightclubs for seven days. Along with the free pass, you’ll also get free welcome drinks.

These are only few of the places one can visit. It is quite possible that none of them interest you. These are just few suggestions from me, nothing more.

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Graffiti Wedding Invitations Of Jaisalmer

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Earlier this week, while walking through the bylanes inside Jaisalmer Fort, I noticed something very unique. The walls outside many houses had identical graffiti painted. Upon closer inspection, I saw that the paintings were actually wedding invitations!

Our guide, Satish bhaiyya who had been sent with us by Club Mahindra Jaisalmer resort where we were putting up, was a local of Jaisalmer. He explained that this unique method of drawing graffiti wedding invitations on the walls was an age old tradition which was still followed by all.

Graffiti wedding invitations painted next to the entrances of houses inside Jaisalmer Fort
Graffiti wedding invitations painted next to the entrances of houses inside Jaisalmer Fort

A week before the wedding, the invitation is painted on the wall next to the entrance of the house. The invitation includes names of the bride and the groom, the date of the ceremony and an image of Lord Ganesha along with kalash and swastika. You can know if the son of the house is getting married or the daughter is, depending on the placement of the names. If the daughter’s name is placed before, then this is the bride’s house.

Graffiti wedding invitations painted next to the entrances of houses inside Jaisalmer Fort
Graffiti wedding invitations painted next to the entrances of houses inside Jaisalmer Fort

This practice is old, and dates back to many decades ago. However, it is equally appreciated by the present generation and not really forced upon them. The entire society is on the same page and this unique way of making news of a marriage in a family certainly makes the people of Jaisalmer different and far ahead of times. Not only is a lot of paper saved, but money and effort saved are also used in more productive purposes.

Graffiti wedding invitations painted next to the entrances of houses inside Jaisalmer Fort
Graffiti wedding invitations painted next to the entrances of houses inside Jaisalmer Fort

The invitations remain on the wall until there is another wedding in the family, and that could be years later too. When the next wedding comes up, the invitation is replaced with the new one and that stays up until the next wedding.

Graffiti wedding invitations painted next to the entrances of houses inside Jaisalmer Fort
Graffiti wedding invitations painted next to the entrances of houses inside Jaisalmer Fort

The streets and bylanes of Jaisalmer, specially inside the fort area, are populated by houses on both sides and every turn brings one face to face with a wedding invitation. It was a delight to walk through the narrow lanes, kept spotlessly clean, and chancing upon the various graffiti invitations on the walls of the houses. About the houses, people, shops and feel of the Jaisalmer Fort, I’ll need to write a separate post.

Below are few more pictures of graffiti wedding invitations of Jaisalmer.

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Graffiti wedding invitations painted next to the entrances of houses inside Jaisalmer Fort
Graffiti wedding invitations painted next to the entrances of houses inside Jaisalmer Fort
Graffiti wedding invitations painted next to the entrances of houses inside Jaisalmer Fort
Graffiti wedding invitations painted next to the entrances of houses inside Jaisalmer Fort
Graffiti wedding invitations painted next to the entrances of houses inside Jaisalmer Fort
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Five Places One Must Visit When In Ireland

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I love to read about places. Most of the time that I am seen hunched over my tab or mobile, I am reading up about people, cultures, must visit places, off-beat places, and everything related to whichever city or country that pops to my mind at the moment. Last night, I was reading up about Ireland. A good friend moved there a couple of years ago, and the quaint, friendly country has been on my list ever since. More since I heard her praise how friendly the locals are – most important, ‘coz I’d hate to visit a place where the people are not friendly.

The first thing I noticed while reading about Ireland is, how green the country is. The castles and country side have fascinated me ever since I was a little girl, and after reading up more about the country, I cannot wait to pack my bags and travel. Until then, I shortlisted five must-visit places in Ireland –

Connemara National Park 

There are six national parks in the Republic of Ireland and Connemara National Park is located in the west of Ireland, County Galway. The national park is spread across 2,957 hectares which even includes a 19th-century graveyard along with 4,000-year-old megalithic court tombs. Yes, you’ve guessed why this national park piqued my attention! It is said that there is quite a wide variety of flora and fauna which can be seen in the national park with one special attraction being the Connemara pony, which is the largest mammal in the park.

Slieve League

A mountain off the Atlantic coast, the Slieve League includes few of the highest sea cliffs and stands 1,972 ft tall. I couldn’t find a lot of literature about the place worth mentioning here, except that the pictures left me spellbound.

Mullaghmore Beach

In the village of Mullaghmore in County Sligo, is the much visited holiday destination where the ocean line and the view of the sky are said to leave one spellbound. And who doesn’t love being spellbound, looking at the marvels and beauties of nature! Author and historian Joe McGowan’s home, Mullaghmore Beach is said to be one of the world’s best big wave surfing locations. The waves here are high and are responsible for a typical weather type which is fondly called – Viking Storm.

five-places-one-must-visit-when-in-ireland-1

The Castles

I know I will be writing a seperate post about this, but here is a preview. Few of the must see castles are Blarney castle, Ashford castle, Bunratty castle, Doe castle and Cahir castle. The exquisite architecture and well-maintained premises can mesmerise just about anyone and take one back by centuries, to give a peak into the lives of the residents of the castles.

The Countryside 

Lush green, clean, serene and expanding till as far as your eyes can see. Give me one reason why you wouldn’t want to spend a few days soaking in the calm and beautiful nature, and I will tell you ten for why you should. Yes, in a fresh post for sure!

 

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Castles in Germany

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What comes to your mind when you think of Germany? I’ll tell you what comes to mine. Cars! Beer! Beethoven & Bach! Oktoberfest! Gingerbread! Sausages! And? And, castles! Yes, when we say Europe and castles, Germany is rarely ever the first answer – Scotland and Ireland are more famous, at least in India. But German castles are what dreams are made of. The kind of dreams one wouldn’t mind living in, and never waking up! So next time you plan a vacation to the country, don’t just hang around the cars and the beer, but include visits to at least a few of these castles!
Lichtenstein Castle
Built in the 19th century in honour of the medieval knights of Lichtenstein, the Lichtenstein castles is a new-Gothic structure in the Swabian Alps near Honau. There used to be a different castle in the place of the current one but it was destroyed and a new one was built at a distance of 500 m. Owned by the Duke of Urach now, it is open for visitors. You can see a large collection of historical armour and weapons. While the castle has been featured on stamps several times, it was also used as a set in the movie Dornröschen (Sleeping Beauty) in the year 2009.
Schwerin Castle
 

 

As the name suggests, this palace is situated in the city of Schwerin which is the capital of the German state Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. The city has a lake which is so huge that there is an island in it and on it resides this palatial structure. A World Heritage Site, the oldest records of the Schwerin castle date back to 973 AD. Currently the inside of the castle has been converted into a museum and the palace grounds are extremely beautiful. Well-maintained and recently renovated, the palace is an excellent place to spend the day, finding out more about the culture of the area. Leave your car in the city and walk through the foot bridge to reach the castle, and eat some German food – you will come back refreshed and armed with a lot of knowledge.
Heidelberg Castle
A landmark in Heidelberg, the ruins of Heidelberg Castle happen to be Renaissance structures located on the north of the Alps. The castle was demolished a couple of centuries ago and a part of it has been rebuilt, but the earliest structure goes back to  the year 1214. Synonymous to romanticism along with ravages of war & forces of nature, these ruins attract millions of visitors every year. The interiors of the palace can be seen only as a part of a guided tour and it is closed on December 25. For timings, concessions and disability access, check the website mentioned below.
Website: www.schloss-heidelberg.de/
Hohenschwangau Castle 
Flickr: klmircea / Creative Commons

Hohenschwangau castle was officially the summer residence of King Maximilian II of Bavaria and his wife, Marie of Prussia. You will need to buy tickets individually for visiting Museum of the Bavarian kings, Hohenschwangau Castle and Neuschwanstein Castle.  Mary´s bridge (Marienbrücke) which is the bridge over the Pöllat gorge is closed for visitors till May 2016 because of restoration work.
Website: http://www.hohenschwangau.de/

Reichsburg Cochem 
Flickr: molinarius / Creative Commons

Located in Cochem, this beautiful and breathtaking castle is the largest hill-castle on the Mosel. When you take a guided tour through the castle, you also get to be a part of rustic medieval banquets, medieval castle festival, sparkling wine gala, cultural events, gourmet festival and even the Cochem castle Christmas if you are visiting from now till Chrsitmas. You can have a one of a kind experience if you go with Cochem’s night watchman in his evening round through the old town. He will have his halberd, horn & lantern with him, and all you will need to do is join him around 20:30 hours right outside the tourist information office. This tour will be an hour long and will be charged.
Website: http://www.burg-cochem.de/index.php?id=4&L=1

Burz Eltz
Eltz Castle, or as known in German – Burg Eltz reminds one of the fairy tales we’ve grown up with. Thirty three generations have lived in the castle since the 12th century and it is still owned by the Eltz family. On three sides, the castle is surrounded by the river Elzbach with the Eltz forest behind it. The castle along with the forest in the backdrop, give the feel of the enchanted castle and forest. General public is allowed inside only from April to October, and they can also see the castle’s treasury, artifacts and weapons. The castle is more of a home than a Medieval fortress. It is actually three castles in one, belonging to different section of the same clan. Each section of the clan built their own buildings at different times, hence the architecture differs a bit too. It was in 1815 that the structures were unified.
Hohenzollern Castle


About 50 kms south of Stuttgart Baden-Württemberg, Hohenzollern Castle is a very popular destination amongst tourists. Located at the height of almost 3,000 ft, Hohenzollern Castle is actually a combination of three castles. The first castle doesn’t really exist any more as it was attacked and later completely destroyed in the year 1423. Three decades later, a second castle was built. It went through a lot of history and by 1798, it had started to fall into ruins. The third castle is the one we can see now. It was built between 1850 and 1867. Since then no one has actually take residence in the castle so from 1952, it is being filled with art and historical artifacts from the collections of the Hohenzollern family. In 1978, a major earthquake had damaged the castle and it was being repaired till about 1995. Prince Hubertus of Prussia, Princess Kira of Prussia, Louis Ferdinand, Prince of Prussia, Grand Duchess Kira Kirillovna of Russia, William, German Crown Prince and Duchess Cecilie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin have their burials here. 

These are the seven of my favourite castles. There are many more to explore and find out about. I’ve put this post together to urge travellers to travel into the country’s history and know the real Germany. Because, what is point of travelling to another country if in those few days, you haven’t spent a lifetime there?

Note: Click on the photographs (except header pic and unless mentioned) to be taken to the source.

 

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