Tuesday, December 15, 2015

GERMANY: The Heart of Berlin

By guest blogger Philip Game.

We’re right in the heart of Berlin, yet the two-stop journey to the gleaming new glass-and-steel Hauptbahnhof (central station) requires a tortuous transfer at the gloomy old Friedrichstrasse station. Why so disjointed? And whatever happened to Unter den Linden, that once-grand boulevard running east from the Brandenburg Gate?

These questions do have answers. Today’s Berlin makes better sense as you come to appreciate the city's tortured history and the apparent determination to reunite East and West. Unter den Linden remains a construction site while work continues to restore the missing links in the U-Bahn (underground train) network.

Berlin's idiosyncratic personality is said to date back to the Cold War days, when young West Germans made their way to West Berlin to enjoy free tuition and exemption from military service. West Berliners lived day-to-day alongside a hostile presence, the Wall and the regime behind it.

Today, the Berlin Wall has all but vanished, although token stretches remain as canvasses for street artists too young to remember life in a divided city. But if you weren’t born yesterday, and remember when the Iron Curtain collapsed 25 years ago, do visit Berlin whilst you can still witness vestiges of the old, alongside the new.


Sunday, December 13, 2015

Blue Mountains Girls’ Getaways

The girls got up and went to the Blue Mountains, close by to Sydney for a getaway.

By Guest Blogger Caroline Gladstone

Our butler Andrew greets us at Lavender Majestic, a beautiful sandstone cottage in Katoomba where all sorts of pampering is set to take place.

Cottage is a bit of a misnomer for this 1890’s home, built for Mark Foy, the department store entrepreneur and creator of the famous Hydro Majestic Hotel.

Dry Ridge Winery owner, Emma MacMahon.
Current owner Nicky Vaux extended the house, adding a new wing with extra bedrooms (one huge enough to have four single beds and comfy lounge chairs), and created an outdoor deck and barbecue area, where a hot tub built for at least six takes pride of place. It is the perfect venue for a girls’ getaway, be it a weekend or a week-long escape. While Andrew rustles up gourmet breakfasts, guests can add extra pampering treats such as a class at the Blue Mountains Cooking School or in-cottage catering.
Our butler Andrew serves the breakfast pastries.
Conservatory at Lavender Majestic.
After a deep tissue massage and plenty of lingering in the light-filled conservatory, we visit Dryridge Estate, the only cellar door in the mountains. Then it’s off to Blackheath to pick up our meal of slow-cooked lamb from popular restaurant Vesta, before heading home for a soak in the hot tub complete with a glass of bubbles.

Ahh, bliss.

Visit: http://www.bmgg.com.au/

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Instagram's most popular KIWI destination

Waiheke Island is Instagram’s most popular Kiwi destination

Instagram has named New Zealand’s top ten visitor attractions for 2015, based on the number of images geo-tagged to specific locations. Kiwis and international visitors shared the most pictures fromWaiheke Island. Worldwide, some 80 million images are posted to Instagram every day, making the platform a huge canvas for New Zealand.
Tourism New Zealand General Manager, Australia Tony Saunders said New Zealand scenery is unparalleled so travellers love to capture the spectacular surroundings and share it with their friends and family on social media.
"Thousands of Australians head over to Waiheke Island each year to view beautiful vineyards, olive groves and beaches so we weren't surprised to see it named the most Instagrammed spot in New Zealand.

"We get a huge amount of people sharing their photos of Waiheke Island and the rest of the country via @purenewzealand and the hashtag #NZMustDo.  We love that travellers want to share their journey and the stunning landscapes."

Instagram’s top ten are:

1.     Waiheke Island

2.     Mount Maunganui (@infarawayland)

3.     Hobbiton Movie Set (@shaun_jeffers )

4.     Sky Tower

5.     Takapuna Beach

6.     Lake Tekapo (@danielmurray.nz)

7.     Piha Beach

8.     Wanaka Lake Front

9.     Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

10.  Skyline Queenstown


Sunday, December 6, 2015

India's flower power

In his continuing search for the more weird and wondrous in this world, Get Up & Go contributor David Ellis says that next time you’re working on the flower vase, give a thought to the Mallick Ghat Flower Market on the banks of the Ganges River in Kolkata (Calcutta as most of us still think of it.)

Because here in the biggest flower market in Asia, something like 2500 vendors a day trade fresh-cut flowers by the hundreds of kilograms… some 1500-plus tonnes in fact, brought in daily from farms 60kms or more out of town.

Name a warmth-loving flower and you’ll find it at Mallick Ghat… travel writing colleague Roderick Eime who was there just recently discovering the markets to be a fascinating if chaotic 15- to 18-hours a day of frenzied bidding, bargaining and bustle as vendors and buyers haggle over prices.

Flower buyers and sellers mingle in a sea of colour (R Eime)
And almost cry as you learn that marigolds change hands from as low 60 rupees (AU$1) for a one kilogram bunch, 25 cut roses for just $3.50, wedding garlands a measly 400 rupees ($8) – with equally eye-watering prices for everything from sweet peas and sunflowers, to orchids and gladioli…

But Roderick warns that while Mallick Ghat’s certainly worth a visit during a stay in Calcutta, be ready to splash around a muddy calamity under-foot, and to be constantly jostled amid the competitive crowds. As well, being right alongside the sacred Ganges, prepare too for the sights of the faithful undertaking everything in the holy waters from religious bathing and washing to other activities normally reserved for the bathroom.

It’s all, Roderick says, something of an assault on the senses, with the fragrant perfume of those tonnes of flowers, competing with the ever-present aroma of one of India’s busiest, most densely populated and over-crowded cities.

The writer was a guest of India specialists, Active Travel

Visit: www.incredibleindia.org