Taking the photo of your lifetime

Taking the photo of your lifetime

The Taj Mahal is unarguably of the most recognized buildings in the world and its beauty has attracted many photographers who try to CAPTURE in an image everything they see before their eyes. THEREFORE, OUR first advice: don’t aim for the MOST unique photograph! The photo will be unique for yo u and your experience as a photographer however yo u do it, so don’t expect NO ONE ELSE WILL HAVE EVER TAKEN the same photo , from the exact same position. Remember that there are so many things that make up a photo that yo u will have every chance to make it unique.

Some very interesting photos can also be taken outside the actual complex. The Mahtab Bagh (or the Moonlight Garden) is a great spot across the Yamuna River that was created with the purpose of reflecting the Taj Mahal in its pools, thus amplifying the effect. It is a good spot for a peaceful photo (tripod included), although it is somewhat decrepit. Another interesting choice is to go by primitive boat on the river and take your photo there. Great advantage: you can almost not see the crowds from there! Enjoy taking these photos and don’t forget to share the result with us at https://www.destinationsuncovered.net/talkback.phpIt’s always a good idea to frame your main object of a photo with or within something. With the Taj Mahal, you get two choices: the south offer lawns and pools, while the east and west have the Jawab and the Mosque, wonderful architectonic ways to frame your photo. Both are a great choice, but a personal pick would go for the latter: after all, the Taj Mahal is a monument to humanity and it is only natural that it should be framed by such grandiose structures as well.Some of the usual advice you get when making photos of monuments applies here as well. “Go early” is something you hear a lot and the less familiar with realities of travel believe this is because you want to get the excellent light that is only at dawn. At least in this case, that is not the reason: the light at dusk is just as compelling for an amazing photo opportunity. The “go early” advice is more linked to the fact that there are (hopefully) fewer visitors at that moment of the day. Obviously your best photo of the Taj Mahal is one where you don’t have a Japanese couple holding the tip of the Taj in their hands (the cheesiest photo ever, almost as cheesy as holding up the Tower of Pisa). So, if the jet lag makes it hard for you to sleep, just get up, take your camera and go.

Tips on equipment
Organizationally, it is always best to travel light and this is no exception. Pick one type of lens: in this case, the best choice is a wide lens, because the Taj Mahal is nothing if not enormous and you want to get as much as possible in your shot. Don’t bring a tripod: you aren’t allowed inside with it and the bottle of water you can take instead will be more valuable. You are also not allowed with bags inside, so leave out any additional instruments you normally use.

Inca Trail

Inca Trail

When I was planning my trip to South America, a trip that included a consistent Inca segment, I was split on a decision for quite some time: should I take the easy way out and opt for a train from Cusco to Machu Picchu or take in the entire Inca experience, embrace the mystery and hike the whole 40 on the famous Inca Trail. You can probably tell that in the end I chose the second option (otherwise this article would never have been written) and I have never regretted it one bit.

I think that the most impressive think about the hike (other than the kudos you can give yourself at the very end for doing it) is that it is a perfect mix of nature and history that you get to embrace throughout the whole four days that it takes to complete it. If you go straight to Machu Picchu, it’s great, but if you go to Machu Picchu on the Inca Trail, you will feel more of an insider, having already experienced some of the Inca mystery, including the Inca’s amazing communion with nature.

The hike starts at Qorihuayrachina (tongue twister, watch out!) and the first part of the hike usually takes you to Llullucha, about 11 kilometers from the start of the journey. I took plenty of photos on the way, notably of the many Inca ruins that surround us. One of the impressive things for me was the way that these ruins seemed to be a consistent part of the nature surrounding them. They looked less urban and more natural than other ruins I’ve seen (Roman ruins, for example). The second day is less fun, with an ascent to 4200 meters (hopefully, your time in Cusco should have helped with your acclimatization, but, if not, at least you will know why you are feeling sick).

The best for last: Machu Picchu, the “Old Peak”, but also “The Lost City of the Incas”. Some of the parts of the residential sector here are so well preserved you can almost expect life to resume the way it used to be in the 15th century, when Machu Picchu was believed to have been built for Emperor Pachacuti, who had built the Inca Empire during that time. A day should be enough for your visit here, although you may never want to leave again.It was the third day that I found most interesting, even if it was the longest one. You get to Sayaqmarka (another tongue breaker), which is a city with very well preserved buildings and other urban elements, including shrines and canals. The last part of the hike, in the fourth day, includes hiking through the jungle, so you have an (almost) complete picture of what a hike to Machu Picchu means in terms of the variety of landscapes and natural wonders that you encounter along the way.

Note that this is not your usual kind of trekking adventure. Other than the length of the trail, it is the altitude that may cause breathing problems and fatigue. I have spent about 3 days in Cusco, just to get used to the fact that life at 3000 meters (and, actually, 4200 meters at its highest point on the Inca Trail) is different than what you and your lungs are normally used to.

Machu Picchu was probably built around 1450 as an estate for the important Inca Emperor Pachacuti, who built the Inca Empire at its highest extent. Abandoned by the Inca and undiscovered by the Spanish conquerors, the ruins of Machu Picchu are pretty much a relic directly out of Inca times, without any alterations of the European invaders. Very well preserved, the buildings were constructed using the “ashlar technique”, where the regularly cut stones would be fit together without the use of mortar.

Travel Firsts – Bungee Jumping in Africa

Travel Firsts – Bungee Jumping in Africa

So, you wanna go bungee jumping, eh? The world is your playground, especially in Africa. Let’s start with the classics…


  • The Bloukrans River Bridge is approximately 216 meters high, making this a 160 meters jump, plenty of meters to get most of your adrenaline going (if not, you need to go see a doctor when you are back in your country). According to the Guiness Book of World Record, this is the highest bungee jump in the world. The 216 meters walkway to the jumping spots allows ample views of the beautiful surrounding and gives you some time to walk back if you change your mind and decide there are other experiences out there for you to try before this one. Face Adrenaline (http://www.faceadrenalin.com/aboutus.asp) is probably the best company choice to help you with setting up your adrenaline-filled day: they pride a 100 % safety record. The Victoria Falls Bridge on the Zambezi River, on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe,  remains one of the popular spots for bungee jumping in Africa. You are all probably remembering the recent accident , when Erin Langworthy’s cord snapped after the rebound, but also remember that there are statistically very few such incidents per number of jumps (apparently, there are only 22 officially recorded deaths from such accidents). With this jump, you glide towards the Batoka Gorge, with its grade 5 rapids. It’s a 111 meters dive down, but if you have counted all of them, you have gone a little too far. You can use Shearwater (http://www.shearwatervictoriafalls.com/bungi/default.asp), an adventure company in Zimbabwe that has an office in Victoria Falls town as well. The basic jump is $120, but you can add different features to your jump, such as jumping in tandem with your loved one ($190) or have your jump filmed on DVD to show to your grandchildren (or maybe not…) for an additional $50. Here is something you should remember: the bridge is in the no man’s land between Zambia and Zimbabwe, which means that the border guards will issue a special pass just for your jump. Take about an hour before your schedule time for the jump to make sure you have the time to go through all the formalities.

And move onto the less obvious choices:

  • Kenya has started to develop a limited bungee jumping industry about 10 years ago, when a 60-meters crane was installed on the Tania River, about 100 km north of Nairobi. While an interesting experience if you are in the area, it doesn’t have the spectacular feeling of becoming one with the nature, like you would in the classics, nor the spectacular sensation of the gorge.

  • The Nile High Bungee in Uganda is a smaller, 44 meters jump, so this is better for less enthusiastic jumpers. The smaller height is well-compensated by the rapids of the Nile at this point. One amazing experience: you can actually choose to touch the water (the rope will pull you back just in time). ADRIFT (http://adrift.ug/) is a company in Uganda that operates a number of adventure trips on the Nile, including this bungee jumping feat.

Bottom line

Whether you are into bungee jumping or this is the first time you are doing it, many of the African locations will benefit you because of the extraordinary, raw nature that surrounds the jump spot. The companies that handle this are professional and have been organizing bungee jumping tours for years, so you will not have any bad surprises.

Keep Your Money Safe Abroad

Keep Your Money Safe Abroad

Identity theft is on the rise. Pickpocketing schemes are more and more elaborate. When you travel abroad you are at more risk than ever of losing your valuables. Here are a few common sense tips to keep in mind to help you and your money stay safe overseas.

Protect Your Cash
Ideally you should carry your cash in a concealed money belt. But, we know that sometimes that isn’t practical. So, ladies should be sure your handbag…

… zips up (to reduce opportunities for pick pockets)
… has short straps (to reduce the likelihood of someone cutting it off your arm)
… is always held tight against you and clutched with one hand

And gentlemen who carry wallets in their pockets can help ward against pick pocketing by wrapping a thick rubber band around your wallet before putting it in your pocket. The rubber against your pocket will make it very difficult for someone to take your wallet undetected.

Be especially aware of your surroundings in crowds – professional thieves will distract a victim with anything (someone “hurt”, a fight, street entertainment, etc.) while an accomplice will pick their pocket.

Protect Your Identity
If you’re living overseas, buy a cross-cut shredder and shred not only financial documents, but any and all mail and other documents that have your full name on them. You’ll be considered “rich” in most countries by Western standards and that makes you a prime target for nefarious deeds. Like a jigsaw puzzle criminals can piece together even small things about you, so don’t take any chances – protect yourself and your money by shredding everything.

If you don’t already get paperless statements from your bank, request online-only communication before you travel abroad for an extended period of time to reduce the risk of someone stealing your financial mail (and possibly your identity) while gone.

Don’t ever do online banking from a public computer. If you have to contact your bank and don’t have access to the internet via your phone or your personal computer, call them instead. When you access your banking information from your phone or your personal computer try not to use a “free” or public wifi connection – these are often monitored by hackers who can see everything you do online. Whatever connection to the internet you do use, be sure to have secure firewalls in place on your phone and/or computer to protect your data transmissions.

Be careful who you give personal information to, like your last name and the city you’re from. When your whole life is on the internet it is easy for someone to look you up online, then look up a relative, contact them on your behalf, and pretend they are a friend, saying that you are sick or hurt and need money right away. Nowadays people can find out who you are from just a photo, so be careful who you let take (and keep) a picture of you.

Protect Your Credit Cards
Yes your credit cards do offer more financial protection from fraud than, say, your bank account. But you obviously still don’t want your credit cards stolen, so be careful when, where, and how you use them. If you are anywhere but a first world country (like Europe), use your credit cards only in the most reputable locations (like internationally recognized hotel chains) and never in a market or where someone doesn’t have a proper credit card processing machine. Write down your card numbers and the credit card contact numbers of each of your cards so that if they ever are stolen you can easily freeze your account and notify the company with a fraud alert.

Interview with Vagabondish

Interview with Vagabondish

Mike Richard, founder of the popular travel website Vagabondish. com is one of the most interesting and weltraveled bloggers we’ve ever met. Here is his story

Please tell us more about Vagabondish.com… when did you start it and why?
It began as a labor of love. I was working a lucrative corporate gig as the Creative Director for a web development company. I loved my work but was growing tired of the daily “grind”.

In 2006, I started Vagabondish.com purely as a personal blog using WordPress. Believe it or not, this was even before the days of YouTube and Twitter. The term “blog” was not part of the mainstream lexicon. At the time, my site focused purely on random tidbits of travel-related things that interested me – news items, travel gear, inspiring photos, etc.

In 2008, I decided to have a go at turning the site commercial with a flashy design (very similar to the current design). I transformed it from a personal blog into a group-written travel magazine. I hired a couple of writers and made a big to-do about the new direction of the site.

Almost immediately, people gravitated towards it. Traffic went up, I started getting a few e-mails a day, then 20, then 50. Advertisers were literally filling my inbox. Before I knew it, it was a full-fledged business.

Does the site make enough money to live off of and support your travels, or is it more just for fun?
Fortunately it does turn a profit – enough so that I quit my aforementioned career in 2010. I work harder every day and earn less now than I ever did in Corporate America, but I haven’t looked back. Leaving the “9-to-5” was the best life decision I ever made!

Your site has been voted one of the most helpful travel websites on the web. What sort of information can travelers find on your site?
That’s always flattering to hear. Reading e-mails from fans who’ve been inspired by Vagabondish.com is still one of the greatest feelings in the world.

The site’s always been very offbeat with a healthy dose of sarcasm and tongue-in-cheek humor. As testament to the fact we don’t take ourselves too seriously, our tagline is “Essentials & ephemera for the curious traveler”. Readers can expect to find solid tips & advice that apply to almost all types of travel – form backpacking to midrange budget to luxury. We also post daily updates on the latest quirky bits of travel news and goings-on around the world.

You must have heard and seen some crazy things in your travels – can you tell us your most outlandish experience?
It’s actually a story I haven’t told publicly before. I can’t say where or when for a number of reasons that I can’t get into …

But it was a diving trip to experience Great White Sharks in their natural habitat. In this particular case, we were diving a hookah setup which just means that, instead of standard scuba tanks, 40-foot oxygen hoses are run from the boat down to our dive cages. It provides the divers with a single, constant supply of air. On our second-to-last day out, we encountered a particularly curious shark. Over the course of the day, with each successive dive, he grew increasingly curious – swimming in tighter and tighter circles around our cage. The photos and video we snapped from inside the cages were just phenomenal.

As the last dive of the day was ending, we began our slow ascent up to the ship. He followed our cage to the surface – again swimming in tighter and tighter circles still as if he just couldn’t get close enough. His movements never appeared violent or aggressive however. Ten feet from the surface, with the boat still reeling in the chain to pull us up, something evidently snapped in the shark’s brain. He jerked violently back towards us and bit down hard on the coil of oxygen hoses just above our cage, effectively severing our only supply of air.

I watched all of this in what felt like slow motion mere feet away from him. All I could think was: “I’m trapped underwater, beneath a thrashing 15-foot shark, and I won’t be able to breathe in 3 … 2 … I’m out of air!”

Trying to breathe through a dive regulator with no air flow is like sucking hard through a straw with your finger on one end. There’s just *nothing*. Fortunately, the ship stocks the cages with backup air tanks in case something like this happens. UNfortunately, I put two of the regulators in my mouth and neither worked. Without looking up, I had no idea if the shark was still right above us but I was out of air and options. I dove hard up the ladder, out of the water, and onto the ship. Two hands immediately grabbed me and pulled me out.

It was chaos on the boat – everyone was shouting and I couldn’t see anything. It was like somebody was shining a flood light in my eyes. I made it out of the water a little disoriented but, to my surprise, I was laughing about the whole thing right away.

The crew spent the rest of the day patching the hookah system back together and, much to our surprise, was able to get everything working again.

Looking back, I realize it was one of the closest near-death experiences I’ve ever had. These days, I’m very selective about how much of my travel plans I share with my mother.

Oh my gosh – that is crazy!! Thanks for sharing it with us. What’s your favorite place to visit?
This is a tough one. I would say Ireland for the people – they’re staggeringly friendly. Having grown up in New England – where the locals are very reserved and keep to themselves – if a stranger starts paying a bit too much attention to you, you assume they want or are selling something. So visiting Ireland was eye-opening for me – some of the most welcoming folks in the world. For the scenery and breathtaking landscape, I’d vote Alaska/British Columbia. It’s massive, beautiful and calming. As a hiker and outdoor lover, few places I’ve visited resonated with me as much as northwestern America.

Favorite thing to write about?
I’m a nerd at heart so I love travel gear – backpacks, mobile apps, ways to pack better and the like. These days, I mainly write for our Modern Vagabond column which reviews and discusses better ways to travel through technology. It’s always been a passion of mine and there’s always some new travel gadget to ogle!

Travel Napoleon’s World

Travel Napoleon’s World

FIRST STOP: AJACCIO
It’s hard to believe that the incredible journey of a self-made man to world-wide glory and power starts in the unassuming French island of Corsica, in the town of Ajaccio. The city of Ajaccio is the capital and largest city of Corsica and some say it is among the most beautiful seashores of the world (hopefully, not all of them are proud inhabitants of the city itself). The city was built on the seaside and became one of the preferred destinations for privileged tourists in the 19th and 20th centuries wanting to enjoy the beauty of the sea without the crowds. In addition to myriad sites reminding the visitor that Napoleon was born and lived part of his life here, be sure to enjoy the views from a walk along one of the cliffs. The western cliff wall (La corniche du Couchant), for example, is about one and a half hours long and offer fantastic views of the sea and the beach, as well as the medieval towers known as the Genovese Towers (although not all of them are Genovese).

In 1764, the Bonaparte family moved into the house at Rue Saint Charles 20000, where Napoleon was born in 1769 (according to legend, on a Louis XVI couch). Damaged during the troubled times of the French Revolution, as the family had sided with the Republic, the house was enlarged and renovated, with new furniture added, much of which you can see today. The house became a museum in 1967 and is now filled with Bonaparte memorabilia.

SECOND STOP: EGYPT

“Soldiers, forty centuries are looking down upon you from these pyramids” – this is what history records Napoleon as saying before the Battle of the Pyramids, where his French army won a decisive victory against the Turks and the Mamluks. There are as many as 138 pyramids in Egypt, although the most famous ones are the three pyramids of Giza, just outside Cairo. The largest of these, the Pyramid of Khufu, is known as the Great Pyramid and is the only remaining wonder of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, as well as the oldest one.

Visiting the pyramid is a task that takes you back to mysterious times: you enter through the Robbers’ Tunnel and move around throughout smaller tunnels, both ascending and descending. Be sure to arrive early: there are only 150 tickets being given out in the morning and another 150 tickets in the afternoon. You can always take a private tour from Cairo, which will allow you to tour at a leisurely pace and with an interesting commentary. As with many things in Egypt, tours from Cairo are reasonably cheap (only a couple of dollars) but be sure to add a tip at the end, a treasured custom in Egypt.

Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt did not have a solely military purpose: it was also a scientific expedition, with as many as 150 of the most renowned French scientists of the time joining in the quest. Their goal was to get a better understanding of Egyptian civilization and to play a role in evaluating what to take home to France. Among their greatest discoveries was the Rosetta Stone, which later led to the deciphering and translation of hieroglyphics, in 1822.

THIRD STOP: NOTRE DAME DE PARIS
Napoleon was already an accomplished general and the ruler of France by the time he had reached Notre-Dame on his journey. He had reformed France, reviewed its budget, started construction projects and a legislative and judiciary work that would culminate with the Civil Code, on which much of European law is still based. For anyone, this would have been enough for ten lifetimes, but not for Napoleon.

Napoleon was crowned Emperor of France the Cathedral of Notre Dame by the Pope himself (usually, it was the emperor that went to Rome for the crowning ceremony, but, to showcase his power, Napoleon had the Pope travel to Paris for his coronation. In a total break with French heritage, Napoleon replaced the traditional fl eur-de-lis, symbol of the French monarchy, with bees. The bees had been recently recognized as the symbol of the first Merovingian kings. Napoleon did his own thing to the very end: he took the crown out of the Pope’s hand to crown himself, then crowned his wife, Josephine, an event immortalized in a famous painting by Jacques-Louis David. Napoleon knew the truth that behind every great man is a great woman.The Cathedral of Notre Dame was built in the Classical Gothic style on the oldest part of Paris, the Ile de la Cite, mostly in the 12th and 13th centuries. The church withstood centuries of devastation and troubled times, including during the Protestant Wars, the French Revolution and the Second World War, to remain one of the most recognized symbol of the French capital and of Gothic architecture (pay extra attention to vaults, gargoyles and other recognizable features).

FOURTH STOP: BRNO, THE CZECH REPUBLIC
It was not really at Brno that Napoleon made this stop, but in Brno’s outskirts, in Austerlitz, which witnessed one of his greatest victories and one of the best military achievements of modern history.

The city of Brno, now in the Czech Republic, was for a long time the capital of the medieval province of Moravia. It is a worthy stop not only because of its medieval buildings, such as the Spilberk Castle, but also due to its modern architecture. One such example is the Villa Tugendhat, built in the 1920s and a symbol of modernism in Europe. The house is an early example of the functionalism style of architecture, characterized by a focus on the purpose of the construction and a simplification of structure and decorations. The Villa Tugendhat also witnessed the signing of the document that confirmed the division of Czechoslovakia into the states of Slovakia and the Czech Republic, in 1992.

The Battle of Austerlitz is considered by many to be Napoleon’s greatest military achievement. In 1805, he thoroughly defeated a combined Russian and Austrian army. For the next two years, the Great Army, as the French army became known, would win a string of victories against the Russians and Prussians and become the most powerful state on the continent. Decline would then follow, but for now, Austerlitz represented the height of the Napoleonic glory.

To celebrate his amazing victory at Austerlitz, the following year (in 1806) he commissioned the building of the Arch de Triomphe, which graces this month’s cover. Work on it was stopped for about 10 years after his defeat, but was continued later as a monument to all French forces in all wars.

The Battle of the River Moscow or Borodino took place about 150 kilometers from Moscow and was one of the bloodiest battles in the Napoleonic history. The Russian army, in constant retreat after the French invasion, decided to take a stand and fight to protect the capital. The cry of victory however is subject to interpretation: the field remained in French hands and the Russians retreated, but the staggering losses on both sides made this a very indecisive victory. The great Russian writer Tolstoy wrote “War and Peace” in a cottage in a small village that was part of the large battlefront.FIFTH STOP: MOSCOW
Napoleon stayed in the Kremlin (fortress in Russian, but more of a citadel in the case of the Kremlin in Moscow—with as many as four palaces, four cathedrals and a range of other buildings on its grounds) during his month in Moscow, with the obvious symbolism of having conquered the residence of the Grand Dukes of Moscow and, later on, of the Tsars themselves. With Peter the Great, in the 17th century, however, the Kremlin was no longer used as the imperial residence: Peter moved the capital to St. Petersburg. Napoleon blew up significant parts of the citadel, as a good-bye message on his departure from the city.

SIXTH STOP: FONTAINEBLEAU
By the time Napoleon reached Fontainebleau, he was a shadow of his former glory. Once the ruler of Europe, Europe had now turned against him, at all levels. Even in France, once so loyal, people began to grumble that so much blood had been spilled for the ambition of one man… a familiar complaint heard the world over.

It was at Fontainebleau that Napoleon abdicated, for the first time, upon pressure from his generals in   1814. He attempted suicide with poison, but the poison, made especially for such occasions of defeat, was several years old and did not work. On leaving the palace and going into exile on the Island of Elba, Napoleon would say, to his troops “Adieu my children! I would like to clasp every one of you to my breast: I shall at least clasp your flag”. Talk about an electrifying speech. Unfortunately, not many soldiers were left to electrify: his campaigns in Russia and Germany in 1812 and 1813 had led to the disappearance of nearly an entire generation.Every French king has lived at the Palace of Fontainebleau at a time or other, with many born there. Many royal guests, such as Peter the Great of Russia, have also stayed at the palace, which was initially a hunting lodge, a trend we’ve seen before in the Palaces of Versailles (France) and Schonbrunn (Austria), but expanded and transformed by Francis I into what it is today. Important architects and painters of the Renaissance worked on it, including Italian import Primaticcio. The Nymph of Fontainebleau, now at the Louvre, was made by the Italian sculptor Benvenuto Cellini.

SEVENTH STOP: THE ISLAND OF ELBA
Several sites are associated with Napoleon in Elba, the most interesting being his town house and his holiday house, about an hour away by bike (you can actually rent a bike from the city and cycle to the house – although one of the hills is a tough challenge). Each house is worth a short tour, as is a walk in the town of Portoferraio. Read about activities at all price points in Elba in our 50-500-5000 article this month.

After Fontainebleau, Napoleon was assigned sovereignty over the small island of Elba, off the Italian coast. He set about organizing the small state with his usual energy. After a year, he left Elba to stage one last comeback – he was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo and was exiled to the Island of Saint Helena.

A famous English palindrome (a sentence that reads the same backwards and forwards) was attributed to Napoleon: “Able was I ere I saw Elba”. Too bad Napoleon didn’t actually speak any English (apparently, there was a time when you could get by with only French).

LAST STOP:
Napoleon initially had to content himself with a small tomb on the island of St. Helena, which didn’t even have his name on it, because of quarrels his British guardian, Sir Hudson Lowe, regarding the choice of name (would it be Emperor Napoleon I or simply General Napoleon Bonaparte?…).

However, when his remains were returned home to Paris in 1840, and laid to rest in the Dome des Invalides, the postmortem situation improved significantly. His sarcophagus was exquisitely designed by the architect Visconti, who also worked on the church to make it more in line with the prodigious nature of the emperor and who designed the mausoleum out of beautiful red porphyry on a green granite
base.
Napoleon’s son, who never reigned and died young of tuberculosis, often lovingly referred to as the Eaglet or Napoleon II among the fans, has a small tomb in the wall on the same level as the Emperor. His remains were brought there during Hitler’s occupation of Paris. Parisians, always in for a laugh, wrote on the wall: “less bones and more coal”…
Stockholm

Stockholm

The Swedish capital city spreads over fourteen islands in Lake Malaren and has everything a visitor would like to see in one of the major European capitals: lots of history, an urban development that showcases the natural features of the land and locals who often seem to be taken for a pastoral picture of simpler and more peaceful times. The city was first documented as early as 1252, when it had become an important post in the local and regional iron trade. It is sometimes known as the Venice of the North

Huge virgin landscapes, cold, short days in winter, lots of snow, near eighteen hours of light in summer, Abba, the Vikings, tall beautiful blond Goddesses (no, really: goddesses!), Alfred Nobel, the actress Ingrid Bergman, the paradox of social policies that reach perfection in a capitalist society, director Ingmar Bergman and his beloved actor, Max von Sydow, writer Stieg Larsson and his posthumously successful trilogy (should I stop?…), are just a few that come to mind when thinking of Sweden. Stockholm, its capital, embodies a unique landscape, with nature, history and modern living coming together in harmony here. Just so that you don’t get lost, here is your list of five “must sees” in Stockholm:


2. The Skansen Museum
. Here, on the island of Djurgarden, Sodra Djurgarden, to be precise, the open air Skansen Museum takes one back to another way of life. Built at the end of the 19th century, this was one of the first museums in Europe to display real dwellings and other buildings in the village, transplanted here and transformed into museum exhibits. Try to connect with the rural past of this amazing people and imagine life as you walk the streets of the museum and enter the farm houses.1. Gamla Stan, the Old City, with a visit to the Royal Palace, whose notable neighbor is the Swedish Parliament. Sweden is, after all, a monarchy. Like many royal palaces throughout the world, this palace’s history dates back to medieval times. It started as a fortress and has been rebuilt over and over again, until it reached its present form, tribute to the Baroque style. This huge palace, even for the standards of a European royal palace, houses museums, a Treasury, countless royal apartments, a library, the royal Chapel and a Royal Guard that looks over all these. It is usually open from 10 am to 5 pm during the summer days and from 12 pm to 6 pm during winter. Make sure you join one of the guided tours that can tell you a lot more about everything you’ll see.

3. Markets, especially the Östermalms Saluhall, likely to greet you with smells and visions of the simple and yet satisfying products that have been present on tables from those of the Vikings to the most demanding food critics’ of the twenty first century: meats such as moose and reindeer, fish, like salmon and herring, but also French and Italian cheeses, Spanish and Italian ham and countless of other food products from Sweden or around the world. Taste them on the spot and satisfy your own hunger.

4. A boat tour. A boat tour is a good way to expand you view of Stockholm and explore some of the related landscapes. It would take you from island to island and further from the Lake Malaren that houses them all into the Baltic Sea. Beautiful landscapes and buildings that complement them are testimonials to the Swedish talent of paying respects to nature even in the capital city.

5. Vantage Points. If you are someone who enjoys taking spectacular, panoramic shots (and even if you aren’t), don’t miss some excellent locations for observation. The first one is from the gardens of the City Hall. The Old Town is at your feet and it is wonderful to rest while taking all in. Further up, and more amazing, but also further away, is the Monteliusvagen, a quarter mile path that walks along the island Sodermalm (you have to walk off all those hams and cheeses ate at the Östermalms Saluhall market). With the higher vantage point here, the views are all encompassing and your snapshots as well as your mental photos will be breathtaking, especially at sunrise or sunset.