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A list of off-shore destinations that can give unforgettable moments

New Delhi 22 Jun 2015, Vol 6 Issue 25

Whether you’re a tourist or traveller, the Indian summer is the perfect time to pack your bags and go on a journey. Looking for a holiday that promises loads of fun? Places where one can explore the wonders of nature, history, mythology and architecture and also shop, haggle and sip exotic drinks?

Here are a few off-shore destinations that won’t just satisfy that wanderlust but also give an opportunity to revel, refresh and make some unforgettable memories.

Floating markets, or Talaat Naam, are a familiar tourist venue around Bangkok (Photo: WFS)

A SPECIAL VIENNESE ODYSSEY

Romantic escapes. Aristocratic fantasies. Expansive gardens. These are just some of the images that describe Vienna. Ok, so Austria’s historic capital is a holidayer’s dream come true but what kind of experience can an average female traveller count on?

The answer is pretty much unforgettable – and in a good way. The city scores high on the safety quotient, which is always reassuring. The Mercer: Personal Safety Ranking study ranks Vienna as the fifth city in personal safety, after Luxemburg, Bern, Helsinki and Zurich.

Half the urban area in the city is green, dotted with 850 picturesque parks, 1,716 quaint bridges, rolling meadows, roadside verges and green rooftops that provide a constant, yet ever-changing, palette of blossoming flowers.

A walk through one of the many perfectly landscaped parks here can be truly delightful. Countless blooms, pretty butterflies and busy bees create an ambience straight out of a favourite Victorian novel.

Of course, there are many touristy attractions in close vicinity of this pristine backdrop. Like the Burggarten park with its Jugendstil (Austrian Art Nouveau) Palm House. A slice of paradise, here sun worshippers can catch the morning rays, while others can marvel at nature, at the Butterfly House alongside.

One of the newest attractions is the Habsburgs’ legendary Kunstkammer (Chamber of Art and Wonders) at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, which is architecturally compelling and houses works of art and curious keepsakes that the Habsburgs, one of the most important royal houses of Europe, began acquiring in the Middle Ages.

After a long day, a typical Viennese meal is definitely in order. Savour Mehlspeisen, or delicately sculpted cold and warm desserts, in the main course, along with Palatschinken (thin pancakes filled with sweet marmalade or jelly), Kaiserschmarren (shredded doughy pancakes with compote) and Marillenknödel or apple strudel, Vienna’s signature dish.

— By Kavitha Srinivasa

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IN BUENOS AIRES, EVA PERON REVISITED

A trip to Buenos Aires would be incomplete without a visit to the 'Museo Evita', the museum that showcases the life of Eva Peron - artiste, social activist, politician and wife of Argentinean President Juan Peron.

Affectionately called Evita, or little Eva, Peron's life and mission continue to reverberate years after her death, helped in part by Andrew Webber's famous musical 'Evita'. Eager tourists throng the museum located in the heart of the city, now dotted with streets named after the outstanding Latin American women.

The guide of the Bus Turistico, the hop-in-hop-off city service for sightseeing, makes it a point to draw attention to the museum and then to the hotel and theatre on Avenida Corrientes - Buenos Aires's Broadway - where Peron lived and performed.

An understanding of Eva, the people's leader, helps tourists understand the significance of the Museo Evita to the life of the First Lady. In its former avatar, it was a home for destitute women and children.

It had been inaugurated by Peron and was a reflection of her concern for immigrants. "Charity separates the rich from the poor; aid raises the needy and sets him on the same level with the rich," she had once observed. The museum, thus, displays the kitchen where food was cooked, and where women were taught to learn a skill to earn a living.

In what could be termed as a tribute to Peron's efforts, Argentinean society has evolved ways to honour decisive women in different ways. On the promenade one can see restaurants highlighting tables exclusively for women.

Had Eva Peron been able to hop on to a tour of Buenos Aires today, she may have been pleased with the societal changes that she would see around her. Perhaps she may have even smiled and hummed, "The truth is I never left you", a line from the famous Webber biographical musical.

— By Ranjita Biswas

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TURKISH DELIGHTS IN ANKARA

Turkey exists on myriad planes simultaneously. It is westernised yet oriental, it is modern yet orthodox, it is Muslim with a Christian history and a secular ideology, but most important of all, it is disarmingly hospitable.

Ankara, the capital, is a new city, rebuilt on an ancient site. Its maple tree-lined undulating avenues, clean and landscaped parks and ubiquitous begonias in myriad colours qualify it as one of the prettiest cities.

The city, an important cultural, trading and arts centre in Roman times and a major trading centre on the caravan route during the Ottoman Empire, was revived by Kemal Ataturk. In fact, dominating Ankara is the imposing limestone 'Anitkabir', the mausoleum of Ataturk.

A visit to the mausoleum is a solemn affair complete with a ceremonial wreath laying. Another interesting place in Ankara is the Museum of the Anatolian Civilisation, which houses some of the most dated excavations, including that of the Mother Goddess from the matriarchal period of the Hittite Civilisation.

For the intrepid shopper, Ankara has immense possibilities. The modern shopping areas are Atakule and Kizilay but more interesting are the old shops at Ulus. This area is best known for its carpets, silverware, embroidery and crystal.

An evening at one of the many night-spots is a must, complete with a Turkish meal of pilav, zeytinyaglilar, borekler, tavuk and dondurma (rice, cold vegetables in olive oil, savoury pastries, grilled chicken and ice cream) and belly-dancing for entertainment.

— By Pamela Bhagat

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A WALK THROUGH WARSAW’S HISTORICAL STREETS

As one emerges from the central station in Warsaw, Poland’s capital that was flattened after World War II, one is immediately hit by a series of contrasts.

On the one hand are the dark reminders of a painful history, on the other is the glass and glitz of the modern times. Nowhere is this contrast more obvious than on the street where the beautiful but controversial Palace of Culture and Science looms large over a sea of contemporary steel and chrome structures.

The traditional building was conceived as a “gift from the Soviet people to the Polish nation”. Stalin is said to have sent his secret emissaries to study the Empire State Building in the United States, which served as its inspiration.

Whereas to the tourist the towering structure is fascinating, one that offers breathtaking views of the city from the top, the Poles are not too happy with it. They’d much rather look at the newer constructions that have come up in the last three decades, those that represent a free country.

From the Palace of Culture and Science take a train to Old Town for some souvenirs, curios and taste of Polish cuisine. Here, painters, musicians and all kinds of entertainers easily mingle around with locals and sightseers alike. A few charming eateries serve a selection of sumptuous pierogis, or Polish dumplings.

A hop and a skip away from Old Town is Jerusalem Alley, once home to 300,000 Jews rounded up by the Nazis before the Second World War. Hundreds of thousands of Jews living here perished of hunger and disease.

In the memory of those lost lives, the Polish government has built the magnificent Polin Museum that features a moving multimedia narrative about the vibrant Jewish community that flourished in Poland for a thousand years up to the Holocaust.

Truly, Warsaw is energising and emotionally draining all at once. If the street fairs and Chopin-inspired musical festivals up the fun quotient then the city’s painful history gives a lot of food for thought.

— By Sudhamahi Regunathan

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A BOAT RIDE BACK IN TIME

The time is 8 am. The place is Bangkok's famous floating market at Damnoen Saduak, an hour's drive from the city. The canals are already crowded with long, narrow boats.

Some of them, colourful and slender, with funny motors mounted at the rear, bearing excited tourists. But most - simple wooden punts - are navigated skilfully by smiling women in conical straw hats. They paddle gracefully as they call out, "Hello! You buy something? Very cheap! You want? I make special price for you, Madame!"

Floating markets, or Talaat Naam, are a familiar tourist venue around Bangkok now but they have their origins in the necessities of daily commerce and communication.

River life was the norm throughout Thailand in ancient times, with klongs or canals dug to provide trade routes and farm irrigation. Damnoen Saduak was excavated in the early 19th century during the reign of King Rama IV.

A visit to Damnoen Saduak offers a glimpse back in time to tranquil village life. Its merchants and boat vendors take special pride in keeping their culture and way of life alive. The floating markets are full of women like Dow, Yui, Tim and King.

They run the gamut, from those dozing in their boats or languidly enjoying a morning bowl of rice soup to aggressively promoting their goods. They cook pancakes, noodles and traditional Thai fare, sell an extraordinary array of fruits and vegetables, hawk everything from clothes to woodcarvings, puppets and antiques.

They look very happy indeed when they have made a sale to a gullible ‘farang’ (foreigner) and they bargain happily with the cognoscenti. A part of the colour and scent of Bangkok's floating market scene, these women promise an unforgettable morning adventure in a city full of surprises and smiles.

— By Elayne Clift - Women's Feature Service

  • Sunday, November 19, 2017