Easter in Greece

    Greek Orthodox Easter Sunday is April 15th for 2012!

    Easter is one of my favorite times to be in Greece for a couple of reasons. First of all even if you are not a devout Christian you can’t help but be moved by the ceremonies and the way life begins again on Easter Sunday after winter and 40 days of fasting. If you go to the countryside or to the islands wildflowers are in bloom and the hillsides that are usually parched brown in the summer are green from the winter rains. You can’t even imagine the fields of flowers and theway life seems to be popping and sprouting up from every crack and crevice. If you are not able to go to the islands or a village but have to stay in Athens, the city also seems blessed because everyone is gone. The streets are quiet and those people who have nowhere to go or who are like me and prefer to stay in Athens when everyone else has left, take walks in the streets and parks and the hills around the Acropolis which are also adorned with green grass and wildflowers.
    Leaving the church at midnight Easter Sunday in KeaI never really cared much about the church ceremonies leading up to Easter, with the exception of the candle lighting ceremony that begins at 11pm on Saturday night and ends after midnight when all the candles held by the people in and around the church have been lit by the holy flame and they begin their journey home, each person holding one. To me there is something beautiful and magical about this. I think it is the most important ceremony in Christianity because it affects believers and non-believers. To see the church begin to glow brighter as each candle is lit and then the masses of people walking through the city streets or the towns and villages fills me with a spiritual feeling of being part of something bigger than myself. Even in the USA when I have gone to the tiny Saint Barbara’s church in Durham where people take their lighted candles and get into their cars and drive home, there is something special about being on the highway after midnight on Easter Sunday and seeing the interior car next to you aglow.
    Easter at midnight, Ag Thomas, Athens GreeceLately though I have taken an interest in the whole Easter celebration, not just the Easter Sunday ceremony and then the roasting of the lamb and drinking wine which of course is my favorite thing about Easter. For one thing people ask me about Easter all the time and by telling them that for me it’s all about lighting candles, eating a lamb and getting drunk they may think I am some kind of pyromaniac, gluttonous drunkard, which is only part of the story. I actually come from a very religious Greek Orthodox family. However my father was the least religious member of the family, a socialist agnostic who took us to church twice. Once when our grandmother died and once for Easter in 1963 at Agia Thomas in Goudi, Athens. It was this Easter service that had a profound affect on me. We lived in an apartment right across the street from the church and from our balcony we could see the people leave the church with their candles(photo) and the fireworks at midnight. Soon afterwards all the people left and walkied like a candle-lit parade through the empty streets of Athens while the bells rang all over the city. From another window we could see a procession of candles making its way down Mount Lycavettos. A psychologist would call this an imprint. I have loved Easter ever since.In 2003 John L Tomkinson, a scholar and teacher in Athens who has put out a series of books about Greece, published Festive Greece: A Calendar of Tradition. The book describes in detail all the holidays in Greece and how they are celebrated in various parts of the country. It was this book that inspired me to create this page. I suppose I could have written something about Easter before this, from my own perspective, but John’s book gave me the background that enables me to make sense of my perceptions which in the case of Easter tended to focus on the lamb and the wine and everything leading up to it was just something happening in the background. Through John’s book I have more of an understanding of Easter to go with the childlike attraction I have had for the most beautiful and holiest time in Greece.

    Apokreas

    Easter does not just happen in Greece on that Holy week. It begins with Apokreas, which is to Orthodox what Mardi Gras and Carnival is to Catholics. Several weeks of partying, a tradition that may go back to the celebrations of Dionysious, take place all over Greece with special celebrations in Patras, Athens, and in various other towns and villages, many with special activities such as the famous Goat dances of Skyros. In Athens the last two weekends of Apokreas people dress up in costume and go to the Plaka, hitting each other with plastic clubs that squeak, and throwing confetti. These clubs are thought to be a remnant of the veneration of the phallus from the ancient Dionysian festivals of Athens and in the town of Tyrnavo in Thessaly giant penises are paraded through the streets There are celebrations in Moschato and Rendi, between Athens and Pireaus, that are similar to being in New Orleans on Fat Tuesday. In Patras the celebrating goes on for forty days and as many as fifty-thousand people take part in the parades. But after the last weekend of Apokreas, known as cheese week (the week before is meat week) many Greeks begin their fasting on Clean Monday, which is a day for spending time with friends and family, going to the countryside and flying kites. From clean Monday to the week of Easter things calm down conciderably.

    Great Week

    Friday of the Epitaphios in KeaThe week of Easter begins on Palm Sunday and there are church services everyday commemorating the last week in the life of Jesus Christ. The evening services are the most well attended of course, except for Wednesday when the Service of the Holy Unction is held in the afternoon. On Thursday morning the service commemorates the Last Supper and the Betrayal of Christ. This is the day that the hard-boiled eggs are dyed red, signifying the blood of Christ, and the Easter bread, called tsoureki, is baked. The evening service is a long one and features twelve gospel readings. It is in this service that a two-dimensional figure of Christ on the cross is brought into the church and set up, while the church bells ring. In some places a vigil is kept in the church all night.

    Epitaphios procession in KeaFrom the point-of-view of a spectator from Friday it starts to get very interesting. The nails holding the figure of Christ are knocked off and the figure is taken down from the cross and wrapped in a white cloth. A large piece of cloth, embroidered with the image of Christ, called the epitaphios which has been decorated with flowers by the girls through the night, is brought into the church where it is sprinkled with rose-water and more flower petals are thrown upon it. The bells of the church begin to toll and all the flags in Greece are lowered to half-mast in while women in the congregation weep in mourning for the dead Jesus. In the evening a funeral service is held and at about 9pm the epitaphios is taken from the church and with the bells tolling mournfully, is carried through the streets in a solemn procession. In cities, towns and villages with more than one church the epitaphios parades may join together at certain points. In Hydra the epitaphios is taken into the sea at Kamini as it is in Tinos at the church of Saint Nicholas at Kalamia. In some places an effigy of Judas is burned while in others Barabbas is. In Skiathos the epitaphios service begins on Saturday at 1am and the procession through the town begins at four in the morning as it does in Zakynthos. On the island of Kea in the village of Ioulida the three congregations meet in the square with their epitaphios after taking different routes through the village. (photo)On Saturday the Orthodox Patriarch breaks the seal of the door of the tomb of Christ in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jeruselem and emerges with the Holy Fire, which is then flown by Olympic Airways, accompanied by high-ranking priests and government officials to Athens airport where it is met by an honor guard to the small church of Agia Anargyroi in the Plaka. From there the light is distributed to churches all over Attika and the rest of Greece.
    Naxos Easter Lamb and Cheese market in Psiri, AthensMeanwhile around Athens there is all sorts of activity this week. The central market has thousands of lambs of all sizes and in Psiri the annual Lamb and Cheese Market has given the neighborhood a village atmosphere as farmers from the island of Naxos come to the city to sell their goods. Athenians who still have connections to their islands and villages on the mainland are preparing to leave the city as are people with no connections. On the islands people are working feverishly to paint restaurants, hotels and shops, white-wash houses and get ready for the second busiest  holiday week of the year (after August 15th the Saint Day of the Virgin Mary or Panagia). By Thursday ferries, flights and the roads leading out of Athens will be full. By Saturday Athens will seem like a giant village. It’s a great time to be in Athens which is a good thing because it is a terrible time to leave because the traffic is so bad.

    The Resurrection or Anastasis  

    Easter at Ag Thomas, Athens, GreeceAt 11pm on Saturday night pretty much the entire country is in church. The lights are turned off at midnight and the priest announces that Christ has arisen from the dead as candles are lit from his and then from each other. The tiny glow at the front of the church grows and soon the whole room is illuminated by the light of everyone’s candles. At the stroke of midnight the priest intones the paschal hymn “Christ has risen from the dead and in so doing has trampled on death and to those in the tombs he has given life“. The church bells ring in celebration, fireworks go off, ships sound their sirens and the light and sound makes the 4th of July seem tame in comparison. People greet each other happily with the words Christos Anesti (Christ has arisen) which is replied to with Alithos Anesti (Truly He has arisen). Then everyone heads for home with their lighted candles where they trace the cross three times above the door and to bless trees and farm animals. Most people either stay home or go to a restaurant for the traditional bowl of margeritsa, a thick green soup made from the intestines of the lamb that will be roasted the next day, breaking their 40 day fast which began with the end of Apokreas. Gunshots, dynamite and fireworks will be going off for the next 24 hours or more shattering nerves and blowing off a finger or two.

    There are many traditions and ceremonies held around the country. in fact too many to mention here, but Tomkinson’s book goes into great detail and is a very helpful way to decide where to spend Easter if you don’t have friends or family to be with in Greece.

    Easter Sunday

    Easter day is most people’s favorite day of the year. A lamb is roasted and friends and families get together to eat, drink, talk and dance. In some towns like Arachova and  Livadeia,  it is a community celebration with rows of lambs roasting in the village square. In other towns like Monemvasia, Rhodes, Hydra, Halkidiki, Koroni, Chania and Leros the effigy of Judas or Barabbas is burned. In Syros and Karpathos people bring their guns and shoot Judas as a scapegoat for society’s ills. In the town of Asine in the Argolid they actually have a street battle with the men of the upper and lower parts of the village hurling insults and fireworks at each other.  In southern Messenia people go to the main squares to watch the saetapolemos, which are rockets without sticks that the men hold while the force of the explosions makes them jump as if they are dancing. This practice supposedly goes back to the War of Independence when people of the area fashioned this home-made bombs to scare the horses of the Turks to force their riders to dismount and lose their advantage. During the afternoon the red eggs are brought out and each person takes one and hits their end against someone else’s until the last person who has an un-cracked egg is considered the lucky person for the year.

    Loula: Wife of George the famous Taxi driver with the wreath she made from the wildflowers she picked from the walk we took Many Athenians who have not gone home to their villages or to the islands will go up to Mount Parnitha or somewhere in the countryside surrounding Athens. After their meal some people pick wildflowers and make wreaths like Loula, wife of George The Famous Taxi Driver. (Every flower in this wreath was picked on our Easter Sunday walk in the hills on the outskirts of Athens. They were all growing wild on the side of the road.) There are very few ferries running on Easter Sunday since most people are with their families. There may be one boat a day to and from some of the popular islands and a few boats to the Saronics. People who stay in Athens until Easter Sunday and then want to leave town to celebrate in the country have to drive. From Monday until Wednesday it is nearly impossible to get a flight or ferry back from the islands and the roads are full of returning Athenians. Athens gets busier and busier and if finally back to normal with traffic and horns blaring as people get back into the swing of city life with renewed vigor. Besides being the holiest time of the year Easter also means that in a few weeks it will be summer.

    Ka-LO PA-ska=Happy Easter

    There are several family-run hotels that invite guests to celebrate Easter with them. This is a great way to actually take part in Orthodox Easter instead of just being a spectator.

    On the beautiful island of Lesvos you can join the Greek-Canadian Hahathakis family who own the Hotel Aphrodite Beach in Vatera for a an island Easter celebration that will not only have you taking part in the ceremonies but also learning how to make the various Easter dishes and exploring the island. The Grand Finale is a lamb roast at the beach with live Greek music. The price: 360 Euros per person for everything! See Easter on Lesvos

    If you are planning to be in Greece for Easter be sure to make your reservations well in advance. Most of the hotels on the islands are booked full for that weekend as are ferries and flights.

    Original Article


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    New Year’s Eve in Times Square

    It’s bone-shatteringly cold. Approximately 1 million people are packed in tighter than commuters on a 6 train during rush hour. Mostly, they stand around waiting. Heck, they’re not even allowed to drink champagne.

    Still, it’s no wonder that many New Yorkers and visitors want to spend at least one New Year’s Eve in Times Square. To people all over the world—an estimated 1 billion–plus viewers, in fact—Times Square is New Year’s Eve, the backdrop to a lifetime of Dick Clark (and, more recently, Ryan Seacrest)–hosted TV specials, the place where the ball drops, the fireworks explode and the streets are bathed in a ton of confetti. And we don’t mean “a ton” as in “a lot”—we mean an actual ton, as in 2,000 pounds.

    So if you choose to be part of the world’s biggest New Year’s Eve party this time around, here are some essential tips to ensure that your experience is memorable and pleasant. (For more details, visit the Times Square Alliance website, our main source for Times Square dos and don’ts.)

    The Basics
    The famous illuminated Waterford Crystal ball—which can display more than 16 million colors and billions of patterns—drops from a flagpole atop 1 Times Square. The Alliance recommends watching on Broadway between West 43rd and West 50th Streets and on Seventh Avenue up to West 59th Street. Be sure to arrive early, as police officers close down streets as they fill up. (Here’s a rundown of last year’s street-closure times.) Those who score the choicest spots typically arrive before 3pm; the ball rises to the top of the flagpole at 6pm, and by 10:30pm, it’s nearly impossible to find a spot with a view of the ball. Spectators with disabilities should take special care to arrive far in advance, as the designated accessible viewing area—at the northwest corner of West 43rd Street—fills up quickly, too.

    Last year, entertainment for those awaiting the New Year and its accompanying pyrotechnics included live music, hourly countdowns and even midnight-smooch practice. Expect more of the same as you ring in 2012.

    Take the Train
    Public transit is by far the best way to reach the celebration, but try to detrain at a stop other than 42nd Street/Times Square and walk the rest of the way. That subway station in particular becomes uncomfortably crowded on New Year’s Eve.

    Wear Comfortable Shoes
    We know you want to look nice on New Year’s Eve, but no one is going to see your feet in this crowd. If you arrive early enough to get a good viewing spot, you’ll be standing for many hours, and a pair of Reeboks will serve your tired feet much better than a pair of Manolos. Whatever comfy shoes you wear, just make sure they’re closed-toe (and accompanied by a thick pair of socks), or it won’t be long before your feet go numb.

    Leave Your Bag at Home
    The cops won’t let you past the barricades with a bag, period. Plus, you’ll be glad not to have any accessories weighing you down.

    Bundle Up
    It’s going to be very, very cold, and the temperature will continue dropping as the hours pass. Wear more layers than you think you’ll need. The Times Square Alliance website actually references GORE-TEX® by name, which tells you everything you need to know about the conditions in Times Square on December 31.

    Fuel Up
    You can’t reclaim your viewing spot if you leave the area, so grab a bite beforehand on nearby Restaurant Row or elsewhere—but make sure you’re sufficiently nourished and hydrated for the long haul once you join the throng.

    Visit the Restroom in Advance
    There are no portable public bathrooms in the viewing area, so be sure to go before you arrive.

    Have Cool Friends
    It won’t hurt to like the people you’re with and have plenty of conversation topics ready—it’s going to be a fun night, but a long one, too.

    Of course, if Times Square isn’t your cup of tea, there are plenty of other ways to ring in 2012—especially in New York City. For example, you could catch a concert, take a cruise or see a comedy show. However you choose to celebrate, have a great time. Happy New Year!

    By: NYC The Official Guide nycgo.com

    Christmas in Austria

    Christmas is undoubtedly the most important holiday in Austria.
    As in other European nations, December 6th is the day Saint Nicholas, the giver of gifts, makes his rounds. Arrayed in a glittering Bishops robe and accompanied by his devilish assistant, Knecht Rupnecht, he can occasionally be seen roaming the streets giving sweets and apples to good children while his companion playfully beckons “little sinners” to feel the string of his golden rod.
    On December 24th, when the city is frantic with last minute shoppers, the countryside is a refuge for quiet traditions. Farmers chalk the initials of the Three Wise Men on the archway of the stable door; C for Caspar, M for Melchoir, and B for Balthazar, to protect the heard from sickness in the coming year. Christmas trees are lit on this day and in many villages “shelter-seekers” plod through deep snow from farm to farm re-enacting the plight of Mary and Joseph as they sought shelter on the eve of Christ’s birth.
    In the snow-covered Alps, families descend from their mountain homes to the valley below, illuminating the night with torches held high to light their way in the darkness. Carolers gather in church towers and village squares to guide the people to Christmas services with their melodies. All shops, theaters and concert halls close their doors for this is an evening spent with only with family.
    Following church services, families return home for their more intimate celebrating. First Christmas Eve dinner is served, often with “Gebackener Karpfen” (fried carp) as the main course. Dessert may be chocolate and apricot cake called “Sachertorte” and Austrian Christmas cookies called “Weihnachtsbaeckerei” (yes, this is the actual spelling).
    After the meal, the ringing of a bell signals the opening of a door long locked against the anxious eyes of the little ones. For the first time the children are permitted to witness the Christmas tree glistening with lights and colored ornaments, gold and silver garlands, candies and cookies. Beneath the tree is usually arranged an elaborate manger scene. Almost every family owns hand- carved manger figures handed down from generation to generation.
    Father opens the Bible and reads of the “Kristkindl,” Christ Child. Then all sing traditional Christmas carols such as “Silent Night” and “O’Tannenbaum.” After this the presents are distributed and opened.
    In Austria, there is no Santa Claus. Children are taught that their presents have been brought by the “Kristkindl,” a golden-haired baby with wings, who symbolizes the new born Christ. The story tells how the Christ child comes down from heaven on Christmas Eve and, with his band of angels, decorates and distributes trees.

    christmas tree

    Image by peminumkopi via Flickr

    Christmas Eve at Weikersdorf Castle

    Not far from Vienna, you can experience a traditional Austrian Christmas Eve celebration which the whole family will love! Get into the yule time spirit, with a White Christmas in the beautiful Austrian alps.
    Christmas Eve at the Castle of Weikersdorf in Baden regularly sells out weeks in advance, so you’ll need to book ahead of time to avoid disappointment.

    Not far from Vienna, you can experience a traditional Austrian Christmas Eve celebration which the whole family will love! Get into the yule time spirit, with a white Christmas in the beautiful Austrian alps.
    Likely to Sell-out! Christmas Eve at the Castle of Weikersdorf in Baden regularly sells out weeks in advance. Book ahead of time to avoid disappointment.
    Travel from Vienna to the distinguished Renaissance Castle Weikersdorf in Baden. Take your seat at the table to enjoy a delicious four-course dinner, including glazed Christmas-turkey ‘Viennese Style’ while a live band entertains you with traditional music.
    After your Christmas dinner, take a short walk to St Christopher’s Monastery of Heiligenkreuz, where midnight mass will be celebrated. This is followed by the Austrian Christmas Eve tradition of recreating a Nativity scene.

    Before the night is over you will be presented with a gift as a souvenir of your wonderful night of celebrations.

    Salzburg Christmas Eve Tour to the Silent Night Chapel

    The most famous Christmas carol of all time ‘Silent Night’ was written as a poem in 1816 by an Austrian priest called Joseph Mohr. The story behind this is magica itself. The St Nicholas chruch organ at Oberndorf had broken a few days before Christmas, so the priest after considering the options decided to give the poem of Silent Night (Stille Nacht) to his friend Franz Xavier Gruber and the melody for Silent Night was composed and it was composed on a guitar!!
    Travel through the foothills of the Austrian Alps, along the Salzach river valley to Oberndorf, where you will have the opportunity to take part in a touching Christmas celebration in the Silent Night Chapel.

    The church is small accommodating only 12 – 15 people inside, therefore the Holy Mass will be celebrated on the outside of the chapel.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Christmas Horse Drawn Sleigh Ride from Salzburg

    Take one of those excursions to take you along the Salzach river valley past many of Austria’s ski resorts. Near Schladming, location of the 1982 Ski World Championships, you will ascend up to the ‘Steirische Ramsau’ 3,281 feet (1,000 meters) above sea level at the base of one of the Alpine glacier massifs – the Dachstein. In the village there is time for a stroll in the frosty fresh air and lunch in one of the local inns. Your guide will give you advice on all of the possibilities. Then you will hear the jingling bells on the reigns as the sleighs line up across the field and your winter sleigh ride begins!

     

     

     

     

     

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    The Somerset cider trail: from orchard to glass

     

    Down in England’s West Country lies the old county of Somerset, a patchwork of meadows, quiet villages and an orchard around every corner. It is a land of pigs snuffling fallen apples, old farmers telling tales in crumbling pubs, and field after field of wondrous English countryside.

    Where it all begins: the orchard

    At five o’clock each afternoon, Somerset slips into soft-focus. As the sun readies itself for the day’s end, the light turns hazy and golden, coating every scene with the warm graininess of a Super 8 home movie. Stand in an orchard as the glow of late afternoon is filtered through the laden branches, sending a lattice of pale shadow onto the fruit-covered floor, and it is easy to understand why the orchard holds an elevated place in British mythology. From inspiring Newton’s theory of gravity to the wassail ceremonies that drive evil spirits from the trees each January, the orchard has long been a place of quiet contemplation and a very British kind of magic.

    What it hasn’t been is a stomping ground for sex-crazed llamas. But that is what I’m confronted with as I explore the orchards of Burrow Hill Cider Farm, near Stembridge village. Two man-sized llamas – one brown called Louis, one white called Rupert – unnervingly stare me out as I wander past a Gloucester Old Spot pig snuffling among the apples at the base of a tree. Barrelman Stephen Ward is quick to issue a warning: ‘Watch your back around Rupert,’ he says, as we walk towards the truck that has pulled into the farmyard, its bed piled high with freshly gathered apples. ‘He thinks he’s human. He has a habit of leaping onto your shoulders if you turn away too fast.’

    The truck tips the red-and-green Kingston Blacks – just one of 40 varieties used – onto the courtyard. As a stream of water washes the fruit along an apple-clogged trench towards the mill, Stephen tells me how Burrow Hill has rejuvenated cider making in this corner of Somerset. The early 90s were a dire time for cider devotees – the drink was out of fashion, and local farmers were competing to sell off their orchards. Twenty years on, the same farmers are selling Burrow Hill their apple harvest, and seeing it turned into top class cider brandy. The man responsible for this turn of events is Julian Temperley, owner of Burrow Hill.

    A cross between Boris Johnson and Wurzel Gummidge, Julian’s rumpled exterior belies a sharp business brain and penchant for mischief. ‘You fall into cider making by mistake, or by default. It’s not a logical decision,’ he says. ‘Cidermaking is the last bastion of the peasants. We’re an anarchic lot.’ But Julian is in no doubt of the importance of cider to Somerset. ‘If we lose these orchards, the landscape of this part of the world changes entirely. The cider tradition needs to be protected.’

    I stroll through the orchard, serenaded by the thwock of apples falling to the floor (cider farmers don’t pick apples from the tree; they wait for them to fall). Across the road from the farmhouse is the steep hill that gives the farm its name. The climb is short but sharp and I am struck by the sheer immensity of the Somerset Levels. Standing under the sky here is a full 360° experience – it feels like being in the centre of a child’s snow globe. The horizon is a circumference, not a straight line, and the land below unrelentingly flat, divided only by orchards lined up like military regiments. The leaves on the trees have begun to smoulder, not yet set alight with full autumn colour. On the breeze comes the sound of a tractor in an orchard, collecting the windfall for the next batch of cider – the sound of an ancient tradition surviving, adapting and prospering.

    The ciderhouse

    The track down to Wilkins Cider Farm is dotted with handwritten signs, the disparate clues of a rosy-cheeked treasure hunt. Every so often there is a break in the hedge and an instant panoramic of the Somerset Levels surges through the gap, but for most, this is a head-down, no-nonsense trip – it is not the views they have come for.

    Inside the breezeblock ciderhouse, the air is cool and damp. The atmosphere is anything but. Six ruddy-nosed Scotsmen, down for the week, merrily poke fun at each other around a Formica table, a tankard in each hand and a few crumbs of cheese in front. Next to them, four large barrels of cider – two sweet, two dry – sit in a row, hissing out the day’s cider to any pilgrim who turns up with an empty glass. The wall opposite is covered with photographs and cuttings, including an interview with the late Clash singer Joe Strummer. Encircled is his description of happiness: ‘chilling in Somerset with a flagon of Wilkins’ Farmhouse Cider’. No-one here today would disagree.

    At the centre of it all is Roger Wilkins, a burly, gregarious, faded Teddy Boy in overalls and wellies. He purposefully strides around his farmhouse, making sure that every visitor is welcomed and quenched. He has been making cider here for some 50 years, after learning the trade from his grandfather. ‘I was weaned on this stuff,’ he says, raising his ever-present tankard of green-yellow cider to his lips. ‘I’ve been drinking it since I was five years old. And I’ve never had a bad head.’

    The reason why Roger does not know the meaning of the word hangover is the same reason why his cider is so revered, why people will travel 400 miles to sit in his draughty farmhouse. It is just apples. He adds nothing bar a teaspoon of saccharine in the sweet barrels. ‘I test everything by taste,’ he says. ‘I know exactly what it should taste like at every stage.’ Wilkins Cider is how cider used to be before the big brands cleaned it up – rough and ready, with the occasional piece of floating pulp and a sharp tang. The head might be fine, but after a couple of pints, the unsuspecting punter won’t be able to work their legs.

    Three times a day, the hubbub in the farmhouse falls silent as Roger begins a pressing. Bags of apples are poured into the mill and ground into a pomace. Roger spreads it over a lissom, a wooden board covered in a rough, porous cloth, and repeats the process until he has made up a ‘cheese’, eleven lissoms in total, which is wheeled on rails to the press.

    The large vice squeezes down upon the cheese, and the apple juice drips to the trough below. Roger scoops up a palmful, slurps it down and nods, satisfied. There is a murmur of approval from the congregation as he begins to build the next cheese. ‘I’ve been coming here every day for 40 years,’ whispers the man next to me. ‘I never get tired of watching this.’

    The drinkers

    The sign on the wall of the Tuckers Grave Inn leaves visitors in no doubt as to the primary purpose of this tumbledown country tavern: ‘Drink hard cider as much as yer please. Loose yer teeth an bow yer knees. Sours yer gut an makes yer wheeze.’

    Perhaps not the most inviting prospect for recent converts, but for the hardy souls crammed into this front room-disguised-as- a-pub there is nothing better than a tankard of gut-souring cider, and nowhere better to drink it than Tuckers Grave Inn.

    A ring of seats is arranged around a flickering fireplace, the air filled with the chat of the regulars – Roger ‘Cravat’ Bonsall, resplendent in synonymous neckpiece; Graham Clylee, proud veteran of ‘every cider pub in Britain and Brittany’; Stuart Delbono, young farm hand. Each holds a tankard of the near-fluorescent orange Thatchers cider that landlady Glenda Swift pours from the barrels piled up under a window. There is no bar here; that would signal a divide between punters and owners. Rumour has it this room was once the lounge of Glenda’s house, adjacent to the bar, but she would get so many people popping in for a drink and a chat that she turned it into the main room of the pub.

    ‘Doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from,’ says Graham, roasting a handful of chestnuts on the crackling fire. ‘People will always talk to you in here.’ Glenda nods her approval. ‘No subjects are barred in this room,’ she says, looking around at her customers with a tenderness that belies someone whose job it is to get them royally drunk. ‘We know everything in here – where the skeletons are hidden, where the babies are conceived.’

    For all the reverence and ritual that surrounds the making of cider, it is this, the final stage in the apple’s journey from the orchard to the glass, that is the reason why Roger Wilkins and Julian Temperley have dedicated their lives to what is, in effect, squeezing fruit juice.

    The next day, it is clear that cider’s value to Somerset is appreciated far beyond the pubs and pressing plants. Barrington Court, a grand National Trust property, is hosting its Apple Day celebration. A crowd of Somersetians has descended upon the sprawling, orchard-laden grounds, joining in with the apple pressing, picking up the windfall, paying tribute to the humble fruit that defines their homeland. In the central building, there’s a display of the varieties grown here; the names sound more like dashing World War II pilots than fruit – Broxwood Foxwhelp, Ribston Pippin, Harry Masters, Tom Putt.

    It may not quite be the Battle of Britain, but in a strange way the resurgence of cider, and Somerset, owes a similar weight of gratitude to the persistence of these wholesome balls of juicy goodness – forever the heroes of the West Country.

    Getting there

    Trains to Yeovil Junction run direct from London Waterloo, Exeter and Salisbury (from £14.10 return; thetrainline.com).

    Getting around

    Buses do not cover the whole of Somerset. Hire a car from Vincents Daily Rental in Yeovil (from £29 a day; vincentrental.co.uk).


    Original Article By: Matt Bolton Lonely Planet

     

     

    Hokkaido-Japan Fall Foliage Spots

    Hokkaido is a beautiful destination for viewing fall foliage.  Popluar spots are:

    Daisetsuzan Mountains / Sounkyo Gorge

    One of Japan’s earliest fall foliage usually happens in the Daisetsuzan mountains from mid September.
    Location: Daisetsuzan National Park Sounkyo Onsen
    Kamikawa-cho, Hokkaido

    It takes  about 30 minutes by bus to Sounkyo Onsen Stop from JR Kamikawa Station

    Fall Foliage Season: mid September – early October.

    Lake Shikotsu

    Location: Shikotsuko Onsen Chitose-city, Hokkaido
    it takes about 45 minutes by bus for Shikotsuko from JR Chitose Station
    Fall Foliage Season: early – mid October


     

    Lake Akan

    Location: Akan-ko Onsen Kushiro-city, Hokkaido
    Access: About 2 hours by bus from JR Kushiro Station to Akanko Bus Terminal
    Fall Foliage Season: late September – early October

    Sapporo Fall Foliage Viewing Spots

    There are many fall foliage viewing spots in Sapporo-city.

    Onuma Koen Park

    Location: Onuma-cho Nanae-cho, Hokkaido
    Access: JR Onuma Koen Station
    Fall Foliage Season: mid – late October

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    Fall Foliage in Canada

    Jordan woos Gulf tourists

    Europeans, Americans stay away amid unrest, prompting search for replacement; tourism from Gulf Cooperation Council grows.

     

    A promotional campaign urging visitors from the Gulf to visit Jordan appears to be paying off for the Hashemite Kingdom, whose hotels and attractions have been struggling with a drop in tourism from Europe and America.

    Although Jordan has been relatively quiet, unrest elsewhere in the Middle East has frightened travelers and caused tourist arrivals from Europe to the Hashemite Kingdom to drop by over 17% in the first eight months of this year to 400,000 from 483,000 in 2010. The number of visitors from North and South America declined by 13% to just 125,000.

    But, according to data obtained by The Media Line, at least 26% more visitors from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which includes oil-rich countries like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait, states came to Jordan in the first eight months of 2011, compared with the same period last year.

    With its economy rattled by unrest, a growing import bill and interruptions in the supply of natural gas imported from Egypt, Jordan needs tourism earnings more than ever. The International Monetary Fund cut its forecast on Tuesday for the country’s economic growth to 2.5% this year from a previous 3.3%.

    Foreseeing that the tumult of the Arab Spring would likely deter Western visitors, Jordan’s Tourism Ministry moved to compensate by encouraging more Arabs to visit, especially from the GCC.

    Jordan’s top attractions include the ruins of the ancient city of Petra and the Red Sea resort of Aqaba, which was named Arab Tourism Capital of 2011 by the Arab Tourism Ministers Council. The designation has helped it draw some of the tourism away from the volatile, shark-invested resorts in the Egyptian Sinai coast.  It has fewer strictures on liquor and the intermingling of the sexes than many of the conservative Gulf kingdoms.

    According to a report from the Jordanian Ministry of Tourism, some 827,132 tourists from the Gulf visited between January and August this year and spent more than one night in the country. In contrast, just 658,197 came in the same period last year. Nearly seven out of eight of the Gulf country visitors came from Saudi Arabia (718,000), which was almost twice as much as the previous year.

     

    Just over half of the GCC visitors arriving in Jordan last year were “transit tourists,” who spent no more than a few hours in the country on their way to Syria or Lebanon. The Tourism Promotion Authority launched “vigorous efforts” to entice these kinds of travelers to stay for a real vacation. Jordan has been hoping to capitalize on its image of a relatively calm country amidst turbulent unrest to draw visitors.

    The number of tourists from African countries also grew, with 17% more arriving in the first eight months over the 8,786 in the same period last year. The Tourism Ministry data also showed an 8% increase in tourists from Asia and the Pacific, with 189,327 arriving so far this year.

    The report cited the decline from the West as “not significant under the circumstances” and could be adjusted quickly when stable conditions return to the region.

    Anti-government protests have largely subsided in Jordan. Over the weekend, a million-man march was called in Amman to protest in front of the Israeli Embassy amid a rising tide of anti-Israeli demonstrations in the Middle East. While only 300 showed up, Israel chose to evacuate its embassy.

    Weekly demonstrations demanding political reform erupted in Jordan earlier this year, but were milder that protest movements elsewhere in the Arab world. Key drivers of unrest have included unemployment, high living costs and corruption, but a consensus has emerged in demands for political reforms. King Abdullah, a key US ally in the region, has promised reforms and amendments to the constitution in a bid to snuff out protests.

     

    Tourism to Jordan surged last year, according to official figures released in January, with overnight visits up to 4.55 million from 3.78 million in 2009 and visitors spending a 2.42 billion Jordanian dinars ($3.4 billion) in the process. But according to the United Nations’ World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Jordan saw a dramatic 27% drop in visitors in May preceded by a 20.5 % drop in April.

    That stands in contrast to global trends: Worldwide international tourism rose 4.5% in the first half of this year to 440 million, 19 million more than the same period last year, according to the latest update of the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer. Tourism to the Middle East was down 10.8%.

    Alternatively, the recently released Maplecraft Terrorism Risk Index showed that travel to Jordan is not without its risks. But it noted that the protests have been “scattered and small in size.”

    “Jordan is one of the top-10 most water scarce countries in the world. This condition is exacerbated by an increasing population and water intensive sectors such as agriculture and industry. Furthermore, climate change is expected to result in higher temperatures and less rainfall, making water scarcity an important issue to consider in the future,” the report said.

    “It was clear that this was the tourism capital of Jordan. There were lots of Saudis and their families there,” Gary Bregman, a tourist from a Western country who had recently visited Aqaba, told The Media Line. “The cafes were packed. They had real liquor stores, nicer than any I’d seen in the rest of the world, and massage parlors. It was clear you could do things in Aqaba you couldn’t do in other cities in Jordan.

     

    “There were lots of Arabs vacationing and there was no reason not to. It is nearby, easy to get to and there is something interesting for them to do,” he added.

      By Arieh O’sullivan/ Jerusalem Post

     Also Read

    Places to See Fall Foliage in Canada

    The Best Autumn color tends in the eastern parts of Canada; if the main purpose of your visit is to see fall foliage, Ontario, Quebec or the Maritime provinces are your best bet.
    best spots in Canada to take in the changing colors of autumn leaves, starting in the west of Canada and moving east.

    Algonquin Park, Ontario
    The size, beauty and proximity to Toronto of this 7,725 square kilometre park make it one of the most popular parks in Ontario. The forests, lakes, and rivers that comprise Algonquin Park can only be explored by foot or canoe.

    The maple trees are at their best at the end of September or early October. The aspens, tamaracks and red oaks reach their peak in the middle or end of October.


    Agawa Canyon Trip, Ontario
    The Algoma Central Railroad/Railway’s Agawa Canyon trip, which runs north from Sault Ste Marie in northern Ontario, is another excellent way to see the colours at the end of September / beginning of October.
    Fall Foliage Romance by Rail, Toronto – Montreal – Quebec City – Halifax
    There is nothing more spectacular or romantic than the dramatic changes autumn brings to the forests of Eastern Canada. Via Rail’s special 6-night Fall Foliage vacation features some of Canada’s most dramatic and interesting cities like Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City, and Halifax.

    Niagara Parkway, Ontario
    The historic Niagara Parkway, or “River Road,” is the route that Winston Churchill called “the prettiest Sunday afternoon drive in the world,” and follows the winding curves of the Niagara River, which divides Canada and the US. The loveliest stretch in autumn is between the small towns of Queenston and Niagara-on-the-Lake and reaches its pinnacle of color in early October. Finish your day by tilting back a glass of Niagara Wine.

    The Rocky Mountains, Alberta
    In September and October, the days are warm and dry in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains.
    Try accessible spots like Johnston’s Canyon and Tunnel Mountain near Banff or hike up to Lake Agnes from Lake Louise.


    The Bruce Peninsula, Ontario

    The Bruce Peninsula features one of the best portions of the Bruce Trail – an 800 km (almost 500 mile) hiking trail – that features splendid Ontario flora, fauna and water vistas.


    Prince Edward Island

    PEI forests have an exceptional range of colours in autumn. The warm waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Northumberland Strait give PEI a relatively moderate climate and help create one of the longest fall foliage periods in northeastern North America. In addition, PEI’s forests are bear-free and there are no deer or moose, ensuring a safe, hunter-free environment.

    The Laurentian Mountains, Quebec
    Québec is famous for its autumn colours because of the sugar maple trees. Also prevalant are the provincial yellow birch and the American beech. Try the Laurentian Mountains for one of the most beautiful displays of fall foliage in North America. Colours begin their peak at the end of September and continue until mid- to late-October in lower elevations and more southern locations. Celebrate the season by visiting resort town Mont-Tremblant for its annual Symphony of Colours festival.

    The Cabot Trail, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia

    Hailed as one of the world’s most beautiful drives, the Cabot Trail winds around Cape Breton’s northern shore and rewards fall color seekers in a spectacular way. Fiery reds, oranges, crimsons and golds blanket the highlands and reach their peak the first or second week of October.

     


     

    Fundy Coastal Drive, New Brunswick
    Like the Cabot Trail, the Fundy Coastal Drive is another outstanding maritime journey. See some of the highest tides in the world and enjoy the vivacious reds and deep pumpkin oranges, which are at their best the first two weeks of October during Canada’s Thanksgiving Weekend. Tree variety and colors are similar to New England’s, yet crowds are minimal in New Brunswick by comparison.

    Maple Tree Red Leaves are best

    The same trees that have made Canada famous for Maple Syrup are the ones that dominate the landscape with brilliant fall colours (colors) throughout the provinces. The main Canadian provinces for fall colour changes are Ontario, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Prince Edward Isalnd and New Brunswick.  Each province will offer up their own version of the fall leaf changes during the colour season.  The hardwood forests of central and north east Canada are some of the largest forested areas in the world. 

     

    Useful Links

    Festivals in Nova Scotia

    Hike the Highlands Festival, taking place September9-18, 2011.

    Leaf Watch

    Fall colors fall leaf foliage 2011

    fall foliage colour progression report

     

     

    By: Adma Dababneh

    Other Travel Stories

     

     

     

    Categories: Autumn, Canada Tags: Tags: , , , , , , ,

    A Farmer’s Lunch in Paris

    Bars / RestaurantsA Farmer's Lunch in Paris

    A Farmer’s Lunch in Paris

    «Marcel, the one who produces the ham, is Ginette’s cousin, and she makes the Brie. And that’s Etienne, he grows apples and he’s also my uncle by the way ». Merci Guillaume for explaining your family tree. Now what we really want is… a taste of your sandwiches.

    Guillaume is one of the four merry founders of Label Ferme, the new sandwich shop located on the rue Peletier. Their concept is simple: they pick the best produce from their mountainous region and bring them straight back to their shop in trendy SoPi. You walk to the counter and order two slices of local ham and 50 gr of home grown tomatoes, freshly picked from some garden in the Alps. They transform your selection of ingredients into a divine sandwich and sell it to you by the weight. You can either enjoy it on the spot or follow their advice to the best sunny public bench in the neighborhood. Thank you fellows.

    Label Ferme, 43 rue Le Peletier, Paris 9th,
    Tel : 00 33 1 44 63 71 94
    Open Mondays to Fridays from 11.30 am to 2.30 pm
    Sandwichs for 6€ and salads for 8€

     

    Article Source-My Little Paris

     

     

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    Spa Owners and Medical Spa Enthusiasts Planning for the Spa & Resort Expo and Trade Show – A New York Event

    NYC Event Show Description:
    The Spa & Resort Expo and Medical Spa Conference are the premier U.S. Spa Events that reflect and support the convergence of the Traditional and Medical segments of the Spa & Resort Industry. From cutting edge medical techniques to the most sumptuous of spa services,you are able to see, touch, smell, and experience the industry’s most diverse array of products, services, and ideas that will delight your clients.This is a great NYC Event held at Jacob Javits Convention Center – a classic New York Event.

    What this New York Event is about:
    Discover the most advanced technology, up-to-date treatments and procedures from leading company’s at the most progressive spa, medical aesthetic and wellness event of the year. Gain insights at industry relevant education sessions, manufacturer workshops and live demonstrations, and benefit from a productive and efficient buying environment on the Show Floor.

    Co-located with this New York Event is the HBA Global Expo – the combination of both NY Events provides attendees a 360 degree experience of the entire life cycle of a product as HBA is where new products begin and Spa & Resort Expo is where you find the final product and understand the appeal to the customer.

    New York Trade Show Highlights:
    • 70% of registered attendees recommend or approve all purchases.
    • 65% of Spa Owner and Managers in attendance visit no other Trade Shows during the year.
    • Spa Owners and Managers is the largest professional category in attendance.

    Choosing a New York Hotel for your visit:
    There are many NYC Hotels to choose from in Manhattan including Milford Plaza Hotel – A Times Square Hotel. The Milford Plaza Hotel is located in the heart of Times Square, the Theater District and close to all Manhattan Activities, NYC City Tours, Manhattan Events and NYC Shopping, New York City Restaurants and NYC Attractions including Empire State Building.

    Our NYC Hotel is also close to all the most popular NYC Attractions and Things to Do in Manhattan; the Empire State Building, Garment District, Diamond District, Central Park, Jacob Javits Convention Center and many other New York City Attractions that make New York City – ‘The Most Exciting City in the World!’

    Experience The Life Of The Rich And Famous In An All-Inclusive Resort

    When you are on holiday, you’ve some pretty essential things to consider. Should I have the grilled octopus for lunch, or perhaps the fried squids? Go snorkeling first, or play beach volleyball? Wake up early to look at the sunrise on the beach, or don’t bother going to sleep at all? Of all of the stuff you need to take into consideration on holiday, the main thing you should not have to worry about is the budget.

    The majority of us are never able to live our lives like the wealthy and famous do, taking luxurious holidays and investing huge amounts of money on the very best of everything. The all inclusive resorts, however, allow us to experience a somewhat similar lifestyle, at least for a short while.

    To be certain, budgets really are a fact of life. So, does having a financial limit mean always controlling all your needs, simply because there is no room for them within your budget? Absolutely not. When you are on holiday, you should be spoiled. You’ve labored hard for so long, and you’ve gained the right to have some excellent food, a few expensive drinks and simply have a great time.

    All-inclusive beach resort holidays make it easy for travelers to get the most bang for their buck. Today you will find over four hundred resorts in Mexico and the Caribbean alone offering all-inclusive travel packages for people looking for budget-friendly holiday opportunities.

    Having said that, all-inclusive holidays aren’t always as trouble-free as they may appear. You have to thoroughly compare available resorts before finally selecting your holiday destination.

    Comparing and researching the available offers will lead you to the conclusion that the packages, lodging and resorts themselves can differ to a great extent. Some hotels offer packages that are designed for couples only. Others introduce offers for singles, gay couples, or families. Many beach resorts are meant for grown ups only, so be cautious if you are planning a vacation with your little ones.

    Besides the resorts as such, travel packages can differ when it comes to what they offer. Regrettably, not everyone’s understanding of “all-inclusive” is identical. Some include airfare and hotel. Others cover airfare, hotel, transfers, plus some foods. You will find resort holidays which are all-inclusive, except for airfare. Some beach resorts include all alcoholic drinks, as long as they are not premium brands, or offered before 7 pm or after 12 am. Make a price comparison while doing your research, and you will surely find ways to save cash. Including airfare in your all-inclusive package could cost less than booking a flight and having to pay for it on your own, and could save you some energy that scheduling your vacation undoubtedly requires.

    If you wish to find a very good deal, it is best to first identify what you would like and need in order to have a great vacation. When you realize the characteristics and amenities you are expecting, you can start to examine all of the holiday offers you will find. Travel agencies and also the Internet are efficient ways to find many resorts and packages to check out.

    The most significant benefit of booking an exciting-inclusive beach resort vacation is getting all you need for a one-time expenditure. Being aware of this, you will able to relax and revel in your vacations knowing there will not be any unpleasant surprises waiting at the destination. Your finances will remain intact, and the only thing you’ll have to make up your mind about will be the choice between an exotic drink or a cold beer.

    By: Stan Rich

    “Stan is an online entrepreneur and rock guitar player. He enjoys traveling the world together with his wife, two children and… four cats. He’s also the webmaster of Best All Inclusive Resorts.”

    Dubai-Burj Khalifa

    Burj Khalifa — The Tallest Building in the World

    Former names Burj Dubai

    Burj Khalifa (“Khalifa Tower”), known as Burj Dubai prior to its inauguration, is a skyscraper in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and is currently the tallest structure ever built, at 828 m (2,717 ft). Construction began on 21 September 2004, with the exterior of the structure completed on 1 October 2009. The building officially opened on 4 January 2010, and is part of the new 2 km2 (490-acre) flagship development called Downtown Dubai at the ‘First Interchange’ along Sheikh Zayed Road, near Dubai’s main business district.

    The tower’s architecture and engineering were performed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill of Chicago, with Adrian Smith as chief architect, and Bill Baker as chief structural engineer. The primary contractor was Samsung C&T of South Korea.

    The total cost for the project was about US$ $1.5 billion; and for the entire “Downtown Dubai” development, US $20 billion.[ In March 2009, Mohamed Ali Alabbar, chairman of the project’s developer, Emaar Properties, said office space pricing at Burj Khalifa reached US $4,000 per sq ft (over US $43,000 per m²) and the Armani Residences, also in Burj Khalifa, sold for US $3,500 per sq ft (over US $37,500 per m²).

    The project’s completion coincided with the global financial crisis of 2007–2010, and with vast overbuilding in the country, led to high vacancies and foreclosures. With Dubai mired in debt from its huge ambitions, the government was forced to seek multibillion dollar bailouts from its oil rich neighbor Abu Dhabi. Subsequently, in a surprise move at its opening ceremony, the tower was renamed Burj Khalifa, said to honour the UAE President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan for his crucial support.

    Due to the slumping demand in Dubai’s property market, the rents in the Burj Khalifa plummeted 40% some ten months after its opening. Out of 900 apartments in the tower around 825 were still empty at that time.

    Burj Khalifa lifts the world’s head proudly skywards, surpassing limits and expectations. Rising gracefully from the desert and honouring Dubai with a new glow. Burj Khalifa is at the heart of Dubai and its people; the centre for the world’s finest shopping, dining and entertainment and home for the world’s elite.

    Information Source

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    Stockholm is Beautiful!

    Stockholm is the capital and the largest city of Sweden and constitutes the most populated urban area in Scandinavia. It is the site of the national Swedish government, the Riksdag (parliament), and the official residence of the Swedish monarch as well as the prime minister. Since 1980, the monarch has resided at Drottningholm Palace outside of Stockholm and uses the Royal Palace of Stockholm as his workplace and official residence. As of 2010, the Stockholm metropolitan area is home to approximately 22% of Sweden’s population. Stockholm is the most populous city in Sweden, with a population of 851,155 in the municipality (2010), 1.37 million in the urban area (2010), and around 2.1 million in the 6,519 km2 (2,517.00 sq mi) metropolitan area (2010).
    Founded circa 1250, Stockholm has long been one of Sweden’s cultural, media, political, and economic centers. Its strategic location on 14 islands on the south-central east coast of Sweden at the mouth of Lake Mälaren, by the Stockholm archipelago, has been historically important. Stockholm has been nominated by GaWC as a global city, with a ranking of Alpha-. In The 2008 Global Cities Index, Stockholm ranked 24th in the world, 10th in Europe, and first in Scandinavia.  Stockholm is known for its beauty, its buildings and architecture, its abundant clean and open water, and its many parks.

    It is sometimes referred to as Venice of the North.

    Stockholm is a major international city with great natural beauty, good eateries, fabulous standard hotels, an internationally renowned club and music scene and a vibrant cultural life.
    Stockholm, as a city, is over 700 years old and spreads across 14 islands as it faces proudly out to the Baltic Sea. You can get to just about all of Stockholm’s many wondrous sites on foot, a perfect way to see the city. You can also take a boat trip that will give you a different facet of Scandinavia’s largest and probably most beautiful city.


    Attractions in Stockholm
    :
    One of Stockholm’s top attractions, Djurgården (English: Game Park) is an island right in the middle of Stockholm, known for its beautiful green spaces, many sights, events, parks, and tourist attractions. The island Djurgarden has more than 10 million (!) visitors each year. The location is perfect for an interesting 2 hour Djurgarden walking tour across Stockholm’s popular island.

     

     

     

    Gamla Stan is one of the largest and best preserved medieval city centers in Europe, and one of the foremost attractions in Stockholm. This is where Stockholm was founded in 1252.

     

     

     

     

     

    The Royal Palace
    Welcome to one of the largest palaces in Europe! The Royal Palace is the official residence of His Majesty the King of Sweden, with over 600 rooms.

     

     

     

     

    The Vasa Museum

    The Vasa is the only preserved seventeenth-century ship in the world, and a unique art treasure.

     

     

     

     

     

    Skansen Open-Air Museum
    Skansen consists of the oldest open-air museum in the world and the Stockholm zoo, with a beautiful location on Royal Djurgården and a view over all of Stockholm.

     

     

     

     

    Fotografiska
    Fotografiska is one of the world’s largest meeting places for contemporary photography. Fotografiska presents four unique major exhibitions and about 20 smaller exhibitions annually.

     

     

     

     

    The City Hall
    Stockholm City Hall is one of the country’s leading examples of national romanticism in architecture. The City Hall was designed by the architect Ragnar Östberg, and opened on Midsummer Eve in 1923. The City Hall is built from eight million bricks, and the 106 meter tall tower has the three crowns, which is the Swedish national coat of arms, at its apex. Behind the magnificent facades are offices and session halls for politicians and officials, as well as splendid assembly rooms and unique works of art

     

     

     

    Moderna Museet
    Experience one of Europe’s foremost collections of art from the twentieth century to today, featuring works by artists including Picasso, Dali, Derkert and Matisse.

     

     

     

     

    National Museum
    The leading museum of art and design in Sweden, with collections of older paintings and sculptures as well as drawings, graphics, handicrafts and design up to the present day.

     

     

     

     

     

    Boat Sightseeing

     

    Royal National City Park
    The world’s first national urban park is a green lung forming an arc more than six miles long, stretching around and through the city.
    The park abuts the adjoining forests around the city, ensuring an exceptional wealth of species. You can encounter deer and hares, even foxes and moose, and spot rare birds, butterflies and insects, right inside the city. You can walk for days through the Ekoparken, discovering ever new lovely spots.

     

     

     

     

     

    Food & drink!


    Stockholm is recognised as one of Europe’s most dynamic and exciting gastronomic metropolises.

    Regardless of what you prefer to eat, Swedish, international, ethnic or a fusion of all of these. Stockholm’s restaurateurs and chefs are renowned for their culinary creativity, and the restaurant atmosphere are very much part of the total experience.

     

     

     

    Budget Cafés

    There are a huge number of good restaurants, bars, cafeterias and cafés, many with an ethnic flavor.
    Casual eating
    For casual dining, every district in Stockholm has local restaurants that serve a wide range of dishes in various styles and frequently function as local meeting places as well, often with adjoining bars.

     

     

    Fine dining in Stockholm


    At the top of the scale Stockholm has a number of restaurants with a Michelin star, including the well-established F12 and Esperanto, where diners can enjoy modern fusion cuisine, and the chic Lux in the up and coming area of scenic Essinge Island.
    Stockholm never sleeps

     

     

     

    Nightlife in Stockholm

    Most bars and nightclubs are open until around 3 am. All restaurants, bars and nightclubs in Norway are smoke-free indoors but often have a sheltered smoking area outside.

    Oslo’s nightlife is anything but boring. Clubs and bars in Oslo are inviting and friendly and DJs from all over the world help keep the action and mood going in the city’s bars and nightclubs.

    Blaa is situated in the Grünerlokka district and is popular among people over 25 in Oslo. It is well known for having new and upcoming bands and bringing in different popular international DJs at the weekends. The music varies between techno, soul, hiphop, house, electronica, rock and pop. The club is situated in an old factory by the river.

    Looking for some great nightlife in Helsinki? Keep in mind that Finns love late nights: Clubs in Helsinki often don’t open before 10 pm and close at 4 am. At most nightclubs, you have to be 20 to get in.

    Some of the most popular nightlife locations in Helsinki include The Lux Nightclub. If you’re looking for nightlife with class, go party at the Lux. It’s got five bars and big terraces, along with a suitable dress code, and is more expensive than other nightlife locations in Helsinki.

    Ever heard of ice hotels? Well, Helsinki has an ice bar, located at Yliopistonkatu 5! The Arctic Icebar (temperature: -5 C) is a unique nightclub that provides you with gloves upon entering. EUR 10 admission includes a drink.

    Looking for the nightlife scene in Sweden? Well, Malmo offers countless bars and clubs in different styles, so you’re sure to find something good. Most clubs stay open until 3 am or 5 am – nightlife starts late here. Slagthuset , which translates to “slaughter house” is Scandinavia’s largest night club with three different dance floors and a party on every weekend. Go bowling at Big Bowl, Malmo’s hangout for bowling, dining, gaming, and even dancing.

    Very few cities offer nightlife on a par with Stockholm’s – a scene that really lives, seven nights a week, year in, year out. In this respect, Stockholm has very little competition from anywhere north of Paris and London. The various Stockholm districts abound in meeting places – pubs, cafés and club-style restaurants with different profiles depending on age group and musical preference.

    The ‘shopholm’ of Stockholm

    Stockholm is known as a leading design center, and design in the broadest sense – both contemporary and traditional – is an important part of the city’s exciting shopping scene.
    The City area is home to department stores Nordiska Kompaniet (NK), Åhléns and PUB.

     

     

     

     

    By:  Adma Dababneh

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    Denmark ‘happiest place on earth’

    If it is happiness you are seeking a move to Denmark could be in order, according to the first scientist to make a world map of happiness.


    Adrian White, from the UK’s University of Leicester, used the responses of 80,000 people worldwide to map out subjective well-being.

    Denmark came top, followed closely by Switzerland and Austria. The UK ranked 41st. Zimbabwe and Burundi came bottom.

    A nation’s level of happiness was most closely associated with health levels.

     

    Prosperity and education were the next strongest determinants of national happiness.

    Mr White, who is an analytic social psychologist at the university, said: “When people are asked if they are happy with their lives, people in countries with good healthcare, a higher GDP [gross domestic product] per capita, and access to education were much more likely to report being happy.”

    He acknowledged that these measures of happiness are not perfect, but said they were the best available and were the measures that politicians were talking of using to measure the relative performance of each country.

    He said it would be possible to use these parameters to track changes in happiness, and what events may cause that, such as the effects a war, famine or national success might have on the happiness of people in a particular country.

    Measuring happiness

    He said: “There is increasing political interest in using measures of happiness as a national indicator in conjunction with measures of wealth.

    “A recent BBC survey found that 81% of the population think the government should focus on making us happier rather than wealthier.

    “It is worth remembering that the UK is doing relatively well in this area, coming 41st out of 178 nations.”

    He said he was surprised to see countries in Asia scoring so low, with China 82nd, Japan 90th and India 125th, because these are countries that are thought as having a strong sense of collective identity which other researchers have associated with well-being.

    “It is also notable that many of the largest countries in terms of population do quite badly,” he said.

    He said: “The frustrations of modern life, and the anxieties of the age, seem to be much less significant compared to the health, financial and educational needs in other parts of the world.”

    Article Source:

    BBC NEWS

     



    WORLD MAP OF HAPPINESS
    Happiness map
    HOW THE NATIONS RANKED ON HAPPINESS
    1st – Denmark
    2nd – Switzerland
    3rd – Austria
    4th – Iceland
    5th – The Bahamas
    23rd – USA
    41st – UK
    90th – Japan
    178th – Burundi

     

    Hokkaido-Japan

    1 Comment

    Attractions in Hokkaido, Japan

    Hokkaido (???, Hokkaid?) is the second largest, northernmost and least developed of Japan’s four main islands. Its weather is harsh in winter with lots of snowfall and below zero temperatures while its summer is mild and not as humid as the other parts of Japan. Hokkaido attracts outdoor lovers, skiers and snowboarders in the colder seasons and hikers, campers in the summer.

    Hokkaido confounds expectations at every turn. While the mainland of Japan has a reputation for being tiny and crowded, Hokkaido is expansive and  populated. While the mainland features typically Asian architecture, the major cities of Hokkaido have a European feel. Hokkaido has natural wonders, from fields of alpine flowers in the summer to breathtaking ice-scapes in the winter months.

    Cherry blossom year 2018

    It has been predicated that skaura (Cherry Blossom) will start to bloom as usual in Okinawa. Therefore, cherry blossom festivals are scheduled to be held at different spots between January 27, 2018 and February 12, 2018.

    Places to visit in Hokkaido

    Cities and Resort Towns


    Furano and Biei

    are towns in the center of Hokkaido, Known for their pleasant and pictureque rural landscapes. Best time to visit in July when the Lavender fields are in bloom.  Furano is a popular downhill and cross country skiing resort.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Furano Ski Area is one of Hokkaido’s famous snow resorts. Located in a town known for its flowers and television dramas, the resort offers an exciting attraction for the cold winter months.

     

     

     

     

    Asahikawa Winter Festival


    The Asahikawa Winter Festival (??????, Asahikawa Fuyu Matsuri) is Hokkaido’s second largest winter festival after Sapporo’s Snow Festival. The festival takes place over a week in early February, about the same time as the Sapporo Snow Festival. Hence, it is possible for winter visitors to visit both festivals on the same trip as the two cities are only an 80 minute train ride apart from each other.

    Asahikawa  has some of the biggest snow sculptures. Every year one massive sculpture is made as a stage for music and other performances. The giant sculpture of a Korean fortress in 1994 even made into the book of Guinness World Records as the largest snow construction built. The giant sculpture has a different theme each year, such as a snowman castle in 2010 or the Daisetsuzan Mountains in 2011.

    An Ice Sculpture in the Heiwa Dori Area

    Rusutsu Resort

    Rusutsu Resort is considered one of the best ski resorts in Hokkaido. It has a large

    ski area that covers three mountains, each having a variety of long runs with a good mix of groomed trails, great powder and tree runs. It is close to Lake Toya (Toyako) and is on the other side of Mount Yotei from Niseko.

    A large hotel complex sits at the center of the resort, consisting of the highrise Rusutsu Tower, A monorail connects the buildings with each other.

    Rusutsu Resort offers numerous attractions beside Skiing, hot spring baths, as well as places catering to foreigners such as the Cricket Pub sports bar. Summer activities include golf and an amusement park with over 60 attractions and 8 roller coasters.

     

     

     

    Noboribetsu Onsen

    Noboribetsu Onsen is Hokkaido’s most famous hot spring resort. A large amount of Noboribetsu’s many types of hot spring water surfaces in the spectacular Jigokudani or “Hell Valley” just above the resort town. Noboribetsu is part of Shikotsu-Toya National Park.

    Other Nearby Attractions

    Lake Toya,  Lake Shikotsu. Jigokudani, Hot Springs, ???Porotokotan, Mount Uso, Caldera Lake and Hell Valley.




    Jozankei Onsen

    is located inside Shikotsu-Toya National Park between the high cliffs of the Toyohira River. The town is only one hour from Sapporo, making it a popular side trip from the city for residents and tourists. As a result, Jozankei is very developed compared to smaller onsen towns in Hokkaido.

    The onsen waters of Jozankei were discovered in 1866 and the town now has dozens of ryokan, restaurants and shops catering to hot spring tourists.

     

     

    Hakodate

    is Hokkaido’s third largest city, located at the island’s southern tip. Hakodate is best known for the spectacular views to be enjoyed from Mount Hakodate and its delicious, fresh seafood.

    As one of the first Japanese harbor cities to be opened to international trade after the country’s era of isolation, Hakodate has experienced notable influence from overseas, and the foreign population’s former residential district and a Western style fort are among its main tourist attractions.

    Onuma Park, a quasi national park with beautiful, island dotted lakes, is located only half an hour north of Hakodate.

     

     

    The Shiraoi Ainu Museum, also called Porotokotan, is one of Hokkaido’s better Ainu Museums. Ainu culture and lifestyle is shown in an outdoor reproduction of a small Ainu village and inside a conventional museum building. Several performances, such as traditional Ainu dances, are held throughout the day.

     

     

     

     

    Asahikawa

    Located in the center of Hokkaido, Asahikawa is the island’s second largest city after Sapporo. The city is not known as a leading tourist destination, but its zoo, Asahiyama Zoo, is among Japan’s best and most popular. The local noodle dish, Asahikawa Ramen, is also quite well known.

     

     

     

     

    Otaru

     

     

    Otaru is a harbor city,  Its beautiful canal area and interesting herring mansion make Otaru a pleasant one day trip from Sapporo  to or from the Shakotan Peninsula.

    Ferries from Niigata and Maizuru on Honshu arrive at Otaru Port

     

     

     

     

     

    Sapporo

     

    Sapporo is the capital of Hokkaido and Japan’s fifth largest city. Sapporo is also one of the nation’s youngest major cities. In 1857, the city’s population stood at just seven people.

    Sapporo became world famous in 1972 when the Olympic Winter Games were held there. Today, the city is well known for its ramen, beer, and the annual snow festival held in February.

     

     

     

    Hokkaido and Asahikawa are Famous for its Ramen

     

    Hokkaido, Asahikawa is famous for its ramen. Whereas Sapporo is known for its miso based broth and Hakodate for its salt based broth, Asahikawa is known for its shoyu (soya sauce) based broths. Shops serving shoyu based ramen can be found throughout the city.

    The broth of Asahikawa Ramen is also known for being quite oily, and there is often a thin layer of oil on top of the soup. Another characteristic of the local ramen is the generally thin, hard and wavy noodles. The range of toppings is quite typical and includes green onions, pork, bamboo shoots and eggs.

    On the outskirts of the city there is an interesting collection of ramen shops called the Asahikawa Ramen Village. Eight famous ramen restaurants from Asahikawa have opened small branch stores besides one another in the complex alongside a gift shop and a small ramen shrine.

     

    By: Adma Dababneh

    Information taken from Japan-guide.com

    Other Related Stores

    Top Attractions in Turkey


     

     

    Moving to Spain

    Moving and living in Spain for UK Nationals

    The process of becoming resident in Spain has been simplified as much as possible, and it now involves less paperwork and time. However it is strongly advisable that new residents complete all the required procedures when registering, opening a bank account, obtaining medical cover and registering cars and driving licences. This is likely to save them an enormous amount of time and trouble when dealing with other aspects of the bureaucracy. Please see the sections on these topics for full information.

    Entry and residence requirements

    Taking up residence in spain

    We advise that all residents obtain a residence card even if it is not obligatory for them, as it is easier to carry than a passport, and simplifies many of the other administration procedures for new residents. However, the information below shows who is legally required to hold a residence card.

    Who doesn’t need to obtain a residence card?

    UK nationals who are Employees, Self-employed, Students. EU national dependants of an EU or Spanish national or pensioners who have worked in Spain and receive their pension from the Spanish Social Security system no longer need to hold a residence card, and can live in Spain with a valid passport. (Dependants who are non-EU nationals still require a residence card.)

    Who must obtain a residence card?

    Pensioners who have retired to Spain, people of independent means and non-EU national dependants of an EU or Spanish national, are still required to apply for a residence card. They must apply for one of the following two types of card:

    • Temporary residence card: intended stay of more than three months but less than one year.
    • Ordinary residence card: intended stay of more than one year with a maximum validity of five years and renewable.

    How to apply for a residence card

     

    All those who wish to apply should submit the application form, available from the nearest Oficina de Extranjeros, to the local Provincial Police Station (Comisaría de Policía) or Foreigner’s Office (Oficina de Extranjeros). In Madrid this is at C/General Pardiñas 90, along with three passport size photographs, their passport and a photocopy of the original. The issue of a card is at the discretion of the Spanish authorities.

    Further information is available from the Spanish Ministry of the Interior, Tel: 900 150 000. You can also download an application form here

    Residents should ensure their passport is valid and shows next-of-kin details on the back page. They should keep their family informed of their address in Spain at all times.

    Finance

    Using the Services of a ‘Gestor’

    Many people – including Spanish nationals – find that using the services of a ‘Gestor’ is the best way to cope with paperwork. The ‘Gestor’ is not a lawyer as such but will produce the final result with minimum stress, usually for a reasonable fee. New residents can do most of the work themselves, but if they have little time, do not speak fluent Spanish, or are confused by the Spanish administration system, the ‘Gestor’ can be useful.

    However, ‘Gestores’ do not produce immediate results and residents should always obtain an estimate of costs before engaging their services. It is not uncommon for the ‘Gestor’ to require a down payment to cover the whole fee. Gestorías can be found in the Páginas Amarillas

    Bank accounts

    • Non-residents: Visitors can open a bank account with a non-resident certificate, which they can get from the local Spanish police office (in Madrid, this is at the Brigada Provincial de Documentacion, c/Los Madrazos 9), by presenting their passport and a copy of the original and completing the application form. Visitors must close these accounts if they become resident.
    • Residents: UK nationals resident in Spain can open a bank account with a residence card.

    If they do not have a residence card (see Entry and Residence Requirements), UK nationals can open a bank account with their passport and an NIE (Foreigner Identification number).

    How to obtain an NIE (Foreigner Identification No.)

    Residents can apply for an NIE at the local Police Station (Comisaría de Policía, in Madrid at c/General Pardiñas 90). They need to take their passport and a photocopy of the original, and fill in the application form. They must be prepared to prove they are in Spain legally, and show why they want an NIE.

    Alternatively their representative can go to the police station, with the documents to show why they want an NIE, or they can go to the Spanish Consulate in the UK.

    Transfer of capital

    There is generally no restriction on the import of capital into Spain, but it is advisable to keep records showing that the funds were transferred from abroad and not derived from income earned in Spain. Residents should check with their bank in case any special formalities are necessary.

    Transfers of Capital from Spain are governed by Spanish Foreign Exchange Regulations.

    Residents in Spain are allowed to take out up to 6,010.12 Euros in cash per trip before having to make a Customs Declaration. They may also bring that amount into Spain without having to declare it. Anything above that should be declared on Form B1, available on entry into Spain.

    Taxation

    Britiain has a double taxation agreement with Spain, to ensure people do not pay tax on the same income in both countries. However, taxation is a complex issue, and advice should be sought. The Spanish Finance Ministry publishes a book in English called ‘Taxation Regulations for Foreigners’. Further info: www.aeat.es Residents, including retired people, are liable to pay tax on income earned in Spain or from property held in Spain. This includes Property or Real Estate Tax, Wealth and Capital Gains Tax, VAT (IVA), Inheritance Tax, and local municipal charges.

    Medical cover and treatment in spain

    Taking up residence in spain

    Residents in Spain should ensure they are covered by private insurance if Spanish Social Security does not cover them.

    Long-term residents

    Long-term residents in Spain who are not pensioners, employed persons or officially resident do not qualify for Spanish State health care or NHS treatment in England. UK nationals living in Spain are not entitled to health care in Spain at UK expense. Using an old UK-issued E111 to obtain Spanish health care (which is charged to the NHS) is fraud. They have no right to health care in the UK either, as they are not ordinarily resident there. However, they would receive emergency NHS health care in the UK, in the same way as those persons who are officially registered as resident in Spain may receive emergency healthcare in England while on a visit there.

    People in employment

    UK nationals working in Spain should be affiliated to the Spanish Social Security system and are covered by Spanish National Health care for which the employer will deduct social security contribution’s from the employee’s pay packet, usually on a monthly basis. Proof of such payments are shown on the pay slip.

    A social security number card should be obtained from the local Tesorer?a de Seguridad Social (in Madrid at c/Astros 5 y 7, Tel: 91 503 80 00). This should then be presented at the local medical centre (ambulatorio) along with the correct form, which will entitle the card holder to receive a medical card (tarjeta sanitaria) for ordinary health treatment. A list of medical centres in Madrid is available from the Provinicial Madrid Health Service (Instituto Madrile?o de la Salud), c/ Sagasta 6. Medicines are free if prescribed to treat work-related accidents or illness, otherwise patients pay 40% of the cost.

    The self-employed should first obtain an NIE (foreigner identification number) from the police (although we advise obtaining a residence card is easier and more useful) and the Alta Fiscal from the Head Tax Office (Hacienda).

    They should take these two documents to the nearest office of the Tesorer?a de Seguridad Social and ask for the Alta de Aut?nomo and the Inscripci?n en la Seguridad Social. They will receive a social security number card, which will entitle them to the tarjeta sanitaria (health card) from their nearest ambulatorio (medical centre), and full medical cover.

    The minimum social security contribution for medical cover is 208,18 Euros p/m. (25% less for those under 30, or women over 45).

    Working temporarily for a uk employer

    Anyone who works in Spain for up to a year is entitled to form E128, if the DSS or the Social Security Agency in Northern Ireland, confirm that they and their employer continue to pay UK national insurance contributions. Those employed on a temporary posting, and any dependants who accompany them, are entitled to treatment for ANY condition during the posting, using an E128. However, if they visit a third EU country, they are only entitled to emergency treatment and will need a UK-issued E111.

    If the job unexpectedly lasts longer than 12 months, and the appropriate insurance authorities in Spain agree, employees may remain under the UK scheme for a further period of not more than 12 months.

    Students

    UK nationals who are studying in Spain as an integral part of a recognised UK course are entitled to form E128 for up to two years. They, and any dependants who accompany them, are then entitled to treatment for ANY condition for the period of their course. They should apply to the National Insurance Contributions Office, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Tel: 0845 915 4811. If the studies are not a compulsory part of a UK course, students are covered by an E128 for up to 12 months. However, if they know in advance that a course will last longer than a year, they are not entitled to an E128.

    A student who is undertaking work in Spain that specifically relates to their studies is entitled to form E128 for up to two years.

    UK pensioners settling in spain

    UK pensioners (anyone receiving an Old Age Pension or a disability pension) who live in Spain will be entitled to receive free medical treatment under the same conditions as Spanish State Pensioners. The UK pays Spain an annual lump sum per pensioner to cover their health costs.

    To establish entitlement they must obtain form E121 from the DSS in the UK. To register a UK-issued form E121 they should go to the local INSS office – Oficina del Instituto Nacional de Seguridad Social (the main office in Madrid is c/Padre Damián 4-6, Tel: 91 568 83 00) with their E121, application for a residence card and their passport. The INSS will issue a ‘tarjeta de afiliación’ and assign the pensioner to an outpatients clinic (ambulatorio) and INSALUD doctor. They must apply for a residence card before they can register their E121. Prescribed medicines are free for pensioners and their dependents.

    Those who settle in Spain after early retirement, i.e. before the normal UK pensionable age (60 for women, 65 for men), should consult their local DSS office about their medical cover, possibly under form E106, before travelling.

    Ill or deteriorating health is costly, and the Spanish Health services do not cover the wide range of assistance pensioners may be used to in the UK. All EU citizens may expect the same social services as any Spanish citizen under the same conditions, subject to local waiting lists and financial contributions. However, they should bear in mind that such things as meals on wheels, day care centres and nursing homes, which are the responsibility of local, regional and municipal authorities, vary from district to district, may be scarce and welfare staff will not usually speak English.

    British citizens who have been in Spain for a long time may be admitted to Spanish State homes, but places are very limited even for Spanish pensioners, and there are no British Government or other officially subsidised places. Copies of the Guía Directorio de Centros para Personas Mayores (Directory of Nursing Homes) are available by writing to: IMSERSO, Departamento de Publicaciones, Avda de la Ilustración s/n, c/v Ginzo de Línea, 28029 Madrid. Tel: 91 363 88 88, Fax: 91 363 88 80, www.seg-social.es. More specific information can be obtained by contacting the Consejería de Trabajo y Asuntos Sociales or its equivalent in the area where the pensioner lives.

    Private residential homes, which provide various levels of treatment, from purely residential facilities to full-time nursing care and medical assistance, are expensive – probably no less than ?1000 per month, and staff will usually only speak Spanish. However, there are some British run homes, mainly on the Costa Blanca.

    It is advisable to take out private insurance, which will cover medical and dental treatment and even repatriation to the UK.

    People of independent means

    People of independent means should be entitled to healthcare on production of their residence card. The Tesorería de Seguridad Social should issue a social security number card with which they can obtain a tarjeta sanitaria (health card) from their local ambulatorio (medical centre).

    Returning to the UK

    Some UK nationals who have been living abroad for a prolonged period choose to go back to live in the UK. It is important that those in need of long-term care make, or have made for them, arrangements for care before returning to the UK. Entitlement to long-term care services also depends on being ordinarily resident in the UK (previous payment of income tax or NI contributions does not count). Local health or social services in the UK will need persuading that someone who may be completely unknown to them has any right to scarce local resources.

    Finding work in Spain

    There is a high level of unemployment in Spain, and it is often difficult for foreigners to find work. There is often temporary and seasonal work available e.g. in bars, mainly in holiday areas. Work can also usually be found as an English Teacher in one of the many language schools, although the better jobs will go to those with a qualification such as TEFL. A good knowledge of Spanish is normally essential for most long-term jobs.

    Job centres in the UK have details of vacancies throughout the EU, supplied to them through the EURES network, which supports free movement of workers within Europe. As well as UK job centres, EURES can be contacted through Job Centres in Spain (Oficinas de Empleo). For more information visit http://europa.eu.int/jobs/eures, or call 0114 259 6190.

    Employees may wish to seek legal advice before signing any contract for work. Companies with over fifty employees will normally have a trade union representative who can advise on basic rights and recommend a labour lawyer.

    Those looking for work are expected to support themselves while doing so. Unemployment benefit may be transferable to Spain for a limited period. Spanish benefits are not usually payable to non-Spanish nationals. Further information: INEM (National Employment Office). INEM: c/ Espartinas 10. 28001 Madrid. Tel: 91 576 89 02

    Self-employment

    Those who take up self-employment will need to apply for the necessary documentation. Information is available from PYME (the office for small and medium enterprises). The Ventanilla ?nica Service which helps those wishing to set up business may be helpful. Prospective self-employees can also ask for the Enterprise Creation Support Service (Servicio de Apoyo a la Creaci?n de Empresas) at their nearest Oficina de Empleo (Job Centre).

    The British Consulate-General in Madrid and the British Consulates in other cities are not equipped to provide an employment service and cannot reply to enquiries about openings for employment, enter into detailed correspondence or make arrangements in connection with paid or unpaid work. Nor can they intervene in disputes over employment, contracts etc.

    PYME : c/ Castelló 117. 28006 Madrid. Tel: 900 190 092. www.ipyme.org
    INEM: c/ Espartinas 10. 28001 Madrid. Tel: 91 576 89 02. www.inem.es

    Education

    Education is obligatory for all children aged 6-16 if the parents are legally resident in Spain, and is free from pre-school to 18 years. However as pre-school is not obligatory, not all children can gain a place. The availability of places depends on the area of Spain and demand for them.

    The British Council has details of schools in Spain which offer an English-type education. Most are members of the National Association of British Schools in Spain, which organises periodic inspections by British inspectors, in collaboration with the British Council.

    British Council
    Paseo General Mart?nez Campos 31
    28010 Madrid
    Tel.: 91 337 35 66/ 00
    Fax: 91 337 35 73
    www.britishcouncil.es

    Spanish british associations, clubs and expatriate organisations

     

    CHURCHES


    BRITISH EMBASSY CHURCH OF ST. GEORGE
    c/ Núñez de Balboa 43
    28001 Madrid
    Tel: 91 576 51 09
    Email: stgeorgemadrid@telefonica.net
    Sunday service: 8.30am, 10am and 11.15am

    COMMUNITY CHURCH OF MADRID
    Rev C. Bingman
    C/ Viña 3
    28014 Madrid
    Tel: 91 571 21 36/ 655 03 18 57
    Sunday service: 11am

    IMMANUEL BAPTIST CHURCH
    Dr. D. Dixon
    C/ Hernández de Tejada 4
    28027 Madrid
    Tel: 91 407 43 47
    Sunday service: 11am & 7pm

    MADRID PRESBYTERIAN MINISTRIES
    Rev. J. Campbell
    Tel: 91 630 22 58
    MPM@MadridPres.org

    MOUNTAINVIEW INTERNATIONAL CHURCH
    R Richard Wallace
    c/ Playa de Sangenjo 26
    28230 (Las Rozas) MADRID
    Tel: 91 630 51 37/ 667 32 87 68
    Email:richard@mountainview-church.com
    www.mountainview-church.com

    Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church
    The English-speaking Parish of Madrid
    Calle Dracena, 23
    28016 Madrid
    Spain
    Tel: 91 350 3449
    E-mail: olm@ourladyofmercy.info
    web site:http://ourladyofmercy.info/

    SYNAGOGUE
    C/ Balmés 3
    28010 MADRID
    Tel: 91 591 31 31

    SPORT

    HOCKEY
    Sociable English speaking field hockey team
    playing in the Madrid first division. .
    Enquiries to Mark – Tel: 91 541 12 00

    FOOTBALL CLUB BRITÁNICO
    Long established English speaking team playing in the
    Local Spanish league. New players always welcome.
    Enquiries to Stewart Gibb – Tel: 91 742 2998

    MADRID HASH HOUSE HARRIERS
    Cross-country runs & social gatherings.
    Tel: 91 518 81 31

    THE MADRID CRICKET CLUB
    Enquiries to Tom Fryer. Tel: 605 18 73 36
    www.crickeintmadrid.com

    MADRID ULTIMATE FRISBEE
    Enquiries to Nico – Tel: 651 11 33 67

    SOCIALBRITISH HISPANIC CULTURAL FOUNDATION
    Cultural and social events.
    Enquiries to Mrs P. Arriete – Tel: 91 345 63 44BRITISH LADIES ASSOCIATION
    Monthly meetings and social activities throughout
    the year. Enquiries to Shelia Jones –
    Tel: 91 803 47 13

    CAMBRIDGE CLUB
    Ex-university members, social activities.
    Enquiries to Sydney Perera –
    Tel: 91 431 64 97

    INTERNATIONAL NEWCOMERS CLUB
    Provides information about community activities and
    Services. More information: www.incmadrid.com

    MADRID PLAYERS
    English speaking amateur Theatre Group
    New members welcome. Tel: 91 326 24 39
    www.madridplayers.org

    MOTHER & TODDLER’S CLUB
    Weekly meetings in St. George’s Church Hall

    ST. GEORGE’S GUILD
    C/ Núñez de Balboa 43
    International interdenominational group holding
    meetings. Enquiries to Mrs. Milton –
    Tel: 91 441 09 13

    OTHERS

    ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS
    English speaking
    C/ Juan Bravo, 40 bis
    MADRID
    Tel: 91 309 19 47

    International Community Mental Health Association
    C/Juan Bravo 7
    28008 MADRID
    Tel: 91 576 15 38
    Provides mental health services to English-speaking community in Madrid.

    THE BROADSHEET
    English-speaking community publication
    Tel: 91 523 74 80

    CHARITIES

    An unofficial network of welfare groups and small charities can help expatriates facing difficulties. Some are British orientated, but in all cases limited resources restrict the assistance they can provide and none would be able to offer long-term care or financial support.
    AGE CONCERN ENGLAND
    Astral House
    1268 London Road
    London
    SW16 4ER
    Tel: 020 8765 7200/ 0800 00 99 66
    BRITISH BENEVOLENT FUND
    (Madrid area only)
    Contact British Consulate-General, Madrid for details.
    FEDERACIÓN AGE CONCERN ESPAÑA
    Apartado 7
    07180 Santa Ponsa MALLORCA
    Tel.: 971 23 15 20
    Fax: 971 23 04 90
    Email:federation@ageconcern-espana.org

     

    Information Source: http://www.spanishhabitat.com

    Related Articles:

    Turkey
    Moving to Turkey
    Jordan
    Egypt
    Greece
    Spain
    Geography of Europe
    Geography of Asia

    Top Attractions in Turkey

    St. Sophia Museum

    Haghia Sophia Museum, the great masterpiece of Byzantine art. It was built by Justinian in 6th century AD and is the 3rd church to occupy this site.
    At the time it was built, it was the largest church in existence. The church was sacked by the Latins during the 4th crusade in 1204 and many of its treasures taken to the west.
    When Contantinople (Istanbul) was conquered by the Ottoman Sultan, Mehmet II in 1453, it was converted into a mosque.
    Since 1936, by Ataturk’s order it has been a museum.

     

     

    Blue Mosque

     

     

    Blue Mosque, Sultan Ahmet Camii is one of the most beautiful mosques in the world. Its name is derived from the blue tiles decorating its interior. Completed in 1616 by Mehmet Aga, Imperial Architect and one of the students of the great architect Sinan.

    Its grace and beautiful proportions were intended to reflect the splendour of Islam. It was the supreme Imperial Mosque of the Ottoman Empire. The famous blue and green

    Iznik tiles on the walls are bathed in glorious light that is filtered through 260 windows.

     

    Aspendus

    The city was founded on a hilltop and spread down to the plains. Aspendus has one of the best preserved and largest Roman theaters in Turkey. It was built in the 2nd C AD. The city’s aqueducts are also well preserved and worth a visit.

     

    Commagene Kingdom at Mt.Nemrut

    One of the most spectacular sites in Turkey especially at sunset. Mt Nemrut (approx. 2552m) is an extension of the Taurus mountain range in southeastern Turkey. After the division of Alexander’s Empire into three, the Seleucids established the relatively small and wealthy Commagene Kingdom in the region.

    In 62 BC, Antiochos I became king of Commagene and developed his kingdom as a strategic crossroad on the important trade routes between Syria, Mesopotamia and Rome.

     

    Pamukkale

    Pamukkale is one of the natural wonders of the world. It is a unique geological formation formed over 14.000 years. The spring water at Pamukkale has therapeutic qualities and since antiquity has been said to cure rheumatism, kidney and heart diseases.

    Hierapolis, means sacred-city and its history goes back 6th C BC. At its peak the population reached about 100,000. The ruins at Hierapolis cover an extensive area.

    The theater, Temple of Apollo, Colonnaded Street, Byzantine Gate, Plutonium and Necropolis (Cemetery) are some of the highlights of the city. The Necropolis has approximately 1000 tombs and is the largest in Asia Minor.

     

    Ephesus

    Ephesus is one of the best-preserved ancient cities in the world with a history dating back the 12 C BC. It was an important trade and religious center. During the Roman period its population reached approx. 250,000.

    One of the seven wonders of the world, Temple of Artemis was in Ephesus. It is also the site of one of the Seven Churches of Revelation.
    St. Paul lived and preached for about 2 years in Ephesus.

    Cappadocia Region

    One of the geological wonders of the world. Cappadocia is a high plateau in Central Turkey at an altitude of 3270 ft / 1000 m. It lies in a triangle formed by the three main towns of Kayseri, Nevsehir and Nigde.

    The history of Cappadocia begins 60 million years ago with the eruption of 2 volcanos, covering the area with lava and tufa. In later periods rain and wind eroded the land and created unusual valleys, canyons and cones.

    For many centuries Hittites, Assyrian Colonies, Greeks and Romans lived in the region. Cappadocia is also a very important region in early Christian History.

    There are over 600 hundred rock-cut churches built by monks and hermits between the 4th and 11th centuries. In some of these, church walls have been decorated with wonderful frescoes depicting scenes from the Bible.

     

    Pergamon

    The history of the city starts in the 8th C BC when Aeolian Greek colonies settled in the area. The city was founded on a hill overlooking the Caicos plain. During the reign of Eumenes II in the 2nd C BC, it became one of the cultural and intellectual centers of the day.

    With the invention of pergamena (parchment) its library grew to rival in size, the great library of Alexandria. The famous Altar of Zeus was here.

    Pergamum was one of the Seven Churches of the Revelations. The famous Roman physician, Galen was born and studied in Pergamum.The
    ruins are separated into 3 parts, the Acropolis, Red Courtyard and Asclepion, which was the cure center of Pergamum.

     

    Sardis

    Sardis was the capital of the Kingdom of Lydia. It was founded on the banks of the famous golden-bearing river Pactolus. The legendary
    King of Lydia Croesus (560-540 BC) controlled most of western Asia Minor and made generous offerings to the temples of Delphi, Artemis and Didyma.
    Part of the Gymnasium was converted into a synagogue in 3rd C BC. Sardis is one of the Seven Churches of Revelation.

     

     

    Gallipoli Anzacs – Canakkale


    In 1915, Allied warships tried to force their way through the straits with the intention of opening a supply line to Russia via the Black Sea. Allied landings on the Gallipoli Peninsula were finally beaten off by the Turks following bitter warfare.

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    Wadi Rum-The Valley of the Moon-Jordan



    Wadi Rum is near Petra the Rose City Petra is a fascinating ancient city and was selected as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. The rose-red city carved into the limestone mountains was predominantly …featured in the climax of the Harrison Ford/Sean Connery movie, Indiana Jones and the Lost Crusade.

     

    Wadi Rum also known as The Valley of the Moon is a valley cut into the sandstone and granite rock in south Jordan at 60 km to the east of Aqaba. It is the largest wadi in Jordan. The name Rum most likely comes from an Aramaic root meaning ‘high’ or ‘elevated’. To reflect its proper Arabic pronunciation, archaeologists transcribe it as Wadi Ramm. The highest elevation in Wadi Rum is Mount Um Dami at more than 1800m above sea level.

     

    History
    Mount Rum in Wadi Rum stands at 1734 m above sea level. The mountain was named the Seven Pillars of Wisdom (for its shape as seven pillars) by Lawrence of Arabia.

    Wadi Rum has been inhabited by many human cultures since prehistoric times, with many cultures–including the Nabateans–leaving their mark in the form of rock paintings, graffiti, and temples. As of 2007, several Bedouin tribes inhabit Rum and the surrounding area.

    In the West, Wadi Rum may be best known for its connection with British officer T. E. Lawrence, who based his operations here during the Arab Revolt of 1917–18. In the 1980s one of the impressive rock formations in Wadi Rum was named “The Seven Pillars of Wisdom” in memory of Lawrence’s book penned in the aftermath of the war, though the ‘Seven Pillars’ referred to in the book actually have no connection with Rum

    The area was “discovered” as a climbing area in 1984 by Tony Howard, Di Taylor, Mick Shaw, and Al Baker. Howard and Taylor have since written two guidebooks: Treks & Climbs in Wadi Rum and Jordan – Walks, Treks, Caves, Climbs & Canyons, both published by Cicerone Press.

    The area centred on Wadi Rum (the main valley) is home to the Zalabia Bedouin who, working with climbers and trekkers, have made a success of developing eco-adventure tourism, now their main source of income. The area around Disi to the NE, home to the Zuweida Bedouin and erroneously also thought to be part of Wadi Rum by visitors, caters more for Jordanian visitors from Amman, with campsites regularly used by party-goers.

    Petroglyphs

    Khaz’ali Canyon in Wadi Rum is the site of petroglyphs etched into the cave walls depicting humans and antelopes dating back to the Thamudic times.
    Petroglyphs in Wadi Rum

     

     

    Tourism

    The area is now also one of Jordan’s important tourist destinations, and attracts an increasing number of foreign tourists, particularly trekkers and climbers, but also for camel and horse safari or simply ‘day-trippers’ from Aqaba or Petra. In contrast, there are almost no local or Arab tourists though nearby Disi (not actually part of Rum) attracts young people from Amman at weekends. Popular activities in the desert environment include camping under the stars, riding Arab horses, hiking and rock-climbing amongst the massive rock formations. Jabal Rum (1734 metres above sea level) is the second highest peak in Jordan and the highest peak in the central Rum, covered with snow and rising directly above Rum valley opposite Jebel um Ishrin, which is possibly one metre lower. The highest peak in Jordan is south of Rum close to the Saudi border. Named Jebel um Adaami it is 1840m high and was first located by Defallah Atieq, a Zalabia Bedouin from Rum. On a clear day, it is possible to see the Red Sea and the Saudi border from the top. It is now a very popular trek from Rum village.

    The influx of tourists to this once isolated area has substantially increased the financial fortunes of the Bedouin people, and it is not uncommon to see locals using mobile phones and driving expensive four-wheel drive vehicles; many also have wi-fi and computers to run their adventure tourism businesses.

    The village of Wadi Rum consists of several hundred Bedouin inhabitants with their goat-hair tents and concrete houses, one school for boys and one for girls, a few shops, and the headquarters of the Desert Patrol.
    Article Source
    A panorama of Wadi Rum

     

    36 Hours in Abu Dhabi

    36 Hours in Abu Dhabi

    WHAT would you do with $600 billion in cash? If you’re the capital of the United Arab Emirates, rich in oil, the answer is easy: go shopping. Once aloof from the spendthrift ways of neighboring Dubai, Abu Dhabi — which, so far, has not experience the unrest many Arab countries are facing is now ticking off items on a five-star shopping list. Top-notch museums? New branches of the Louvre and Guggenheim are rising from the sands. High-profile events? The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Abu Dhabi Film Festival and Gourmet Abu Dhabi have made their debuts in recent years. Toss in a multibillion-dollar hotel project and a stunning new mosque and you have one of the world’s most ambitious new destinations.

    Friday

    5 p.m.
    1) ON THE CORNICHE

    Come early evening, all of Abu Dhabi — expat professionals from Europe, South Asian laborers, local families in white dishdashas (for the men) and black abayas (for the women) — strolls along the Corniche, a picturesque seaside walkway. It’s the perfect vantage point for taking in the city’s fast-rising thicket of skyscrapers. Finish up at the Heritage Village (Marina Mall breakwater; 971-2-681-4455; free admission), an ersatz old fortress that tries to recreate the Abu Dhabi of yore through camel enclosures, Bedouin tents and traditional artisans. At its beachfront cafe, Al Asalah (971-50-526-5575), sip a watermelon juice (15 dirhams, or $4.15 at 3.60 dirhams to $1) while watching the twinkling city skyline across the bay.

    9 p.m.
    2) PALACE INTRIGUE

    Even if you can’t afford to make a withdrawal from the ATM that dispenses bars of gold, the gargantuan and garishly opulent Emirates Palace Hotel (emiratespalace.com) is worth a visit. Built at a cost of $3 billion, the 362-room behemoth is said to be the most expensive hotel ever built and contains some fitting hangouts. Hakkasan restaurant-lounge (971-2-690-7999; hakkasan.com) opened last year with Asian-cool décor and cocktails like the Hakkatini (orange flavored vodka, Campari, Grand Marnier, apple juice; 50 dirhams). For a traditional Emirati dinner, hit Mezlai (971-2-690-7999). Reserve an outdoor tent and sample local specialties like creamy shark velouté, sautéed chicken livers (with garlic, cinnamon and pomegranate sauce) and lamb nachif (slow cooked in zesty garlic-turmeric sauce). A three-course meal for two runs about 450 dirhams, without wine.

    11 p.m.
    3) GLITTERY NIGHTS

    The fastest-growing part of town is the formerly dusty Yas Island (yasisland.ae), now brimming with diversions: a lush 18-hole golf course, a Formula One track, a sprawling indoor theme park (Ferrari World; see below), a marina and a host of five-star hotels. Hugh Grant, Sir Richard Branson and Prince are among the luminaries who have been spotted in the fractal-like white interior of Allure (Yas Island Marina, 971-2-565-0050; nightcluballure.com; cover, 150 dirhams). Opened last year by the Cipriani restaurant group, the glittery nightclub serves three-liter bottles of Cristal Champagne (68,000 dirhams) and Bellini cocktails (65 dirhams) to a BlackBerry-toting international crowd.

    Saturday

    10 a.m.
    4) ISLAMIC GLORIES

    It’s hard not to be awestruck as you stand on what is said to be the world’s largest handmade Persian carpet (about 65,000 square feet), gazing up at a huge, glittering chandelier in the main prayer hall of the enormous Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque (Al Salam Street; 971-2-441-6444; szgmc.ae), which can hold more than 40,000. Opened in 2007, the marble mosque, with its 82 domes and some 1,000 columns, is a mix of Moorish, Ottoman and Mughal styles. Free tours are held on Saturday at 10 and 11 a.m. and 2, 5 and 8 p.m.

    1 p.m.
    5) A BOHEMIAN BREAK

    Funky, bohemian and cheap are not adjectives normally used to describe anything in Abu Dhabi, but Zyara (Madinat Zayed area, next to Hilton Corniche Residence; 971-2-627-5007) is a rare bird indeed. Abstract art and couches upholstered with wild fabrics provide the décor at this cafe-restaurant, where locals and expats noodle on laptops (thanks to free Wi-Fi) and flip through Time Out Abu Dhabi. The menu ranges from French toast (22 dirhams) to savory manakish (warm flatbread rolled in spices and sesame seeds; 10 dirhams) and a dish called foul (mashed beans stewed with tomato, garlic and olive oil; 20 dirhams).

    3 p.m.
    6) NORMAN’S SOUK

    Arabia goes avant-garde at the Souk at Central Market (Khalifa Street; 971-2-810-7810; centralmarket.ae/souk), a soaring new shopping center of geometric wood slats and colored glass that was designed by Norman Foster. Trouble finding a date? Zadina (ground floor; 971-2-658-8637) has them in abundance: plain dates (100 dirhams per kilo), dates stuffed with pistachios (125 dirhams per kilogram, or 2.2 pounds), chocolate truffles made with dates (450 dirhams per kilo), and much besides. For tea glasses (six for 400 dirhams) and other glassware etched and painted with Arabesque patterns, visit Kudu for Arts (ground floor; 971-2-627-8980; kuduforarts.com). Electronics stores, boutiques, waterpipe cafes and henna artists also fill the space.

    5 p.m.
    7) PEDAL TO THE METAL

    Speed freaks, thrill jockeys, car buffs and lead-footed drivers will get their kicks at the futuristic Ferrari World (Yas Island; 971-2-496-8001; ferrariworldabudhabi.com), an amusement park that pays tribute to the most popular red product to come out of Italy since tomato sauce. The curvaceous complex houses pulse-quickening rides, from Formula One simulators to one of the world’s fastest roller coasters. Between thrills, check out the car exhibitions and the acrobatic musical show. Admission: 165 to 225 dirhams.

    8 p.m.
    8) SULTANIC CHIC

    If the designer Terrance Conran had read “1,001 Nights” too many times, the result would be something like Pearls & Caviar (Qaryat Al Beri; 971-2-509-8777; pearlsandcaviar.com), a sultry den near the Shangri-La hotel with chain-mail curtains, a mosaic floor and a D.J.-spun soundtrack. The menu also melds Occident and Orient to original effect. Especially good are the tuna carpaccio (with pomegranate seeds and crispy thin bread) and tender strips of beef drizzled with hummus. The zucchini fries in a chickpea batter that are topped with a spicy tomato and red-pepper chutney are also excellent. A three-course dinner for two costs around 400 dirhams.

    11 p.m.
    9) DRINKS IN THE SOUK

    Any lingering myths that there is no alcohol in the Islamic world will be put to rest at Souk Qaryat Al Beri (971-2-558-1670; soukqaryatalberi.com), a sprawling bazaar filled with canals, boutiques, restaurants and ample booze-soaked nightspots. Left Bank (971-2-558-1680) is a den of slick black surfaces and red banquettes where a young crowd drinks Left Bank Iced Teas (vanilla vodka, rum, cachaça, Bombay Sapphire, sour mix and ginger beer; 40 dirhams) and other creative cocktails. Everything goes white and bright at Sho Cho (971-2-558-1117; sho-cho.com), a sushi lounge whose drink list includes concoctions like the Sho Cho Infusion(Bacardi, ginger, lime, brown sugar, ginger beer; 43 dirhams).

    Sunday

    10 a.m.
    10) HIT THE BEACH

    Started in 2008 and still expanding, the new (and free) Corniche Beach is endowed with powdery sand, translucent sea and abundant water sports, including waterskiing and parasailing (971-50-781-2312; empros.ae). There are even a few private family beaches — outfitted with sun beds and umbrellas — that can be rented for 10 dirhams.

    Noon
    11) A BOUTIQUE BRUNCH

    Café Arabia (15th Street between Karam Street and Airport Road; 971-2-643-9698), a stylish new cafe and boutique, showcases creations from numerous Arabic-speaking nations. Ensconce yourself on the rooftop terrace or airy ground-level salon and feast on Lebanese fattoush (a salad of lettuce, tomatoes, red pepper, whole-wheat bread chips, powdered sumac and pomegranate syrup), Syrian fatteh (warm yogurt with croutons, chickpeas, garlic and mint), Moroccan-style mint tea and more. Afterward, shop for Palestinian ceramics (55 dirhams) and Egyptian mirrors (from 175 dirhams). Or score a chocolate bar made from camel’s milk. A high-end blend of East and West, it encapsulates the flavor of the new Abu Dhabi.

    IF YOU GO

    A sprawling low hotel complex with 128 rooms, One to One – The Village (Al Salam Street; 971-2-495-2000; onetoonehotels.com) has an impressive gym, a pool, a beer and shisha garden and several restaurants. Doubles from about 465 dirhams, or $130.

    The towering Aloft hotel (Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center; 971-2-654-5000; aloftabudhabi.com) has 408 rooms done in a sleek and angular style and contains the popular rooftop bar Relax@12, among others. Doubles from 405 dirhams.

    Picturesque waterways run past the luxurious Shangri-La (Qaryat Al Beri; 971-2-509-8888; shangri-la.com), affording lovely views of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque on an opposite bank. Amenities include a private beachfront, the Asian-inspired Chi spa and the opulent Pearls and Caviar restaurant and lounge. Doubles from 960 dirhams.
    By SETH SHERWOOD

    World’s Cheapest Countries to Retire to

    The World’s Cheapest Countries to Live In.

    Living abroad can be an exciting, mind-opening experience and is the best way to learn about new cultures. But it’s made even better if your money goes further than at does at home. Find out which countries offer the most bang for your buck.

    In the west, we’ve gotten used to over-paying for things: car parking charges, expensive housing, rip-off public transport, beers that cost as much as your hourly wage, the list goes on… Thankfully, there are plenty of countries where your money goes much further. They all share common characteristics: cheap accommodation, lots of activities to keep you occupied, and tropical climates that make food bountiful.

    Of course, the tropical climate also offers the not-insignificant benefit of gorgeous weather and often pristine beaches on which to while away the hours. And if you can manage to get away from the bigger towns and off the beaten track, you’ll usually find that life becomes cheaper and the scenery even more stunning. Your life in paradise can actually become a reality.

    Thailand

    The Land of Smiles needs no introduction. More than probably any other South-East Asian country, it knows how to make us farangs (foreigners) feel welcome.

    If you’ve visited, you’ll know the satisfaction of strolling up to a street stall, paying 25 baht (about £0.50) for a plate of fried rice, then sitting on a little plastic chair and watching the world go by. Then there are the cheap, comfortable guest houses (or beach huts!), the dollar-a-bottle beers and the cheap buses that can take you half the length of the country for the same price as getting to the next town at home.

    And you know what, living here is even cheaper than visiting. Even in Bangkok, a long-term studio apartment is only £90 per month; move somewhere like Chiang Mai, and you could pay as little as £20! So you can budget just £300 for the whole month and have a lifestyle just as comfortable, but infinitely more satisfying than you’ve got at home.

    Oh, and we’ll let you into a little secret… pretty much everyone leaves Thailand looking slimmer than when they arrived! Why? Because instead of stuffing yourself with burgers and chips, you’ll be having rice and green curry; because instead of finishing off your meal with cakes and biscuits, you’ll probably find a fresh mango shake infinitely more refreshing; and because instead of being chained to a desk all day, you’ll be out exploring this gorgeous country!

    Cambodia

    It may have a troubled history that could give most countries a run for their money, but there are few places in the world where it’s cheaper to live than Cambodia. Even in the capital city, you could live on just £300 per month.

    An air-conditioned apartment will only set you back £120 per month. This might be slightly more expensive than Bangkok, but you can easily trim your outgoings further by sharing with other westerners.

    But the added bonus is that food and drink is probably even cheaper than in Thailand. You can have a whole meal in a local restaurant for just £1.20 where a beer will be just £0.60; these costs can again be slashed even more by venturing into the markets and street stalls, which will also add a bit of excitement to your stay.

    What’s more, the troubled history makes Cambodia a fascinating place to visit. It’s one of the poorest places in Asia and the people are working hard to emerge from the shadow cast by Pol Pot’s infamous regime, but it offers an edge and excitement that’s sometimes missing from nearby countries. The more you learn about Cambodia, the more you’ll come to love it!

    The Philippines

    Could this £300 budget ever become boring? We certainly don’t think so! Especially when you have fascinating cities and so many beautiful beaches; not surprising when you realise that it’s the second-biggest archipelago in the world. An apartment comes in as low as £25 per month in the smaller cities, rising to £120 in the busier locations.

    Once again, the food is probably even cheaper than in Thailand, as large beers come in at only £0.35, while meals at even the nicest restaurants costing just £6 per person, and significantly cheaper than that a smaller, local places.

    And guess what: there are also fewer visitors than most other South-East Asian countries, too, so by living here you’ll really feel like you’re getting a uniquely authentic experience.


    Costa Rica

    The “Rich Coast” is one of Latin America’s best destinations no matter how much money you have, and is even better if you’re on a budget. You know you’re going to get value for money when the cost of your flight is rewarded with a Caribbean and a Pacific coast!

    Once again, our magic number of £300 per month appears, although expect your costs to be slightly higher in San Jose, even if you do share accommodation with another westerner. However, venture outside of the capital and prices drop off quickly, with whole houses available for just £150.

    Food is similarly priced, with a good meal costing just £1.20 in a locally-run restaurant, and a bunch of bananas from an outdoor market costing £0.30. Even the 2-hour bus journey from San Jose to either coast is less than £2.

    These prices may be slightly higher than in other Latin American nations, but what sets Costa Rica apart is just how much is available to you for the still negligible prices. There’s hiking, wildlife-spotting, active volcanoes and some of the best surfing in the world. It’s an amazing location to explore for a couple of years.

    Vietnam

    Vietnam is a popular budget travel destination and should be high on your list of places to stay for a one year, two years, maybe longer. It offers a scintillating mix of beautiful scenery, unrivalled food and some of the most spirited people you’re ever likely to meet.

    So, once you’ve taken into account the £120 per month for your apartment, what should you expect tospend on a typical day in Vietnam? You can wake up and head down to the nearest street stall for a nutritious breakfast of Pho Bo (Hanoi Beef Soup) for just £0.70; hop on a bus for less than £0.50; pick up some fried rice for lunch at about the same price; pay a similar amount for a fruit shake when you get peckish later on; have a Vietnamese Curry in a local restaurant for £2, then finish it off with a few glasses of Bia Hoi for £0.10 each.

    Sound good? Well, this 1,600km-long country offers a stunning array of landscapes and almost as many different cuisines to go with them, so you can be sure that life in Vietnam will never get boring.

    Original Post i-to-i.com

    Major Discovery of Christian History found in Jordan!

    Could lead codices prove ‘the major discovery of Christian history’?

    By Chris Lehmann Wed Mar 30, 11:36 am ET


    British archaeologists are seeking to authenticate what could be a landmark discovery in the documentation of early Christianity: a trove of 70 lead codices that appear to date from the 1st century CE, which may include key clues to the last days of Jesus’ life. As UK Daily Mail reporter Fiona Macrae writes, some researchers are suggesting this could be the most significant find in Christian archeology since the Dead Sea scrolls in 1947.
    The codices turned up five years ago in a remote cave in eastern Jordan—a region where early Christian believers may have fled after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE. The codices are made up of wirebound individual pages, each roughly the size of a credit card. They contain a number of images and textual allusions to the Messiah, as well as some possible references to the crucifixion and resurrection. Some of the codices were sealed, prompting yet more breathless speculation that they could include the sealed book, shown only to the Messiah, mentioned in the Book of Revelation. One of the few sentences translated thus far from the texts, according to the BBC, reads, “I shall walk uprightly”–a phrase that also appears in Revelation. “While it could be simply a sentiment common in Judaism,” BBC writer Robert Pigott notes, “it could here be designed to refer to the resurrection.”
    But the field of biblical archaeology is also prey to plenty of hoaxes and enterprising fraudsters, so investigators are proceeding with due empirical caution. Initial metallurgical research indicates that the codices are about 2,000 years old–based on the manner of corrosion they have undergone, which, as Macrae writes, “experts believe would be impossible to achieve artificially.”

    Beyond the initial dating tests, however, little is confirmed about the codices or what they contain. And the saga of their discovery has already touched off a battle over ownership rights between Israel and Jordan. As the BBC’s Pigott recounts, the cache surfaced when a Jordanian Bedouin saw a menorah—the Jewish religious candleabra—exposed in the wake of a flash flood. But the codices somehow passed into the ownership of an Israeli Bedouin named Hassam Saeda, who claims that they have been in his family’s possession for the past 100 years. The Jordanian government has pledged to “exert all efforts at every level” to get the potentially priceless relics returned, Pigott reports.

    Meanwhile, biblical scholars who have examined the codices point to significant textual evidence suggesting their early Christian origin. Philip Davies, emeritus professor of Old Testament Studies at Sheffield University, told Pigott he was “dumbstruck” at the sight of plates representing a picture map of ancient Jerusalem. “There is a cross in the foreground, and behind it is what has to be the tomb [of Jesus], a small building with an opening, and behind that the walls of the city,” Davies explained. “There are walls depicted on other pages of these books, too, and they almost certainly refer to Jerusalem.”
    David Elkington, an ancient religion scholar who heads the British research team investigating the find, has likewise pronounced this nothing less than “the major discovery of Christian history.” Elkington told the Daily Mail that “it is a breathtaking thought that we have held these objects that might have been held by the early saints of the Church.”


    Still, other students of early Christian history are urging caution, citing precedents such as the debunked discovery of an ossuary said to contain the bones of Jesus’ brother James. New Testament scholar Larry Hurtado observes that since these codices are miniature, they were likely intended for private, rather than liturgical, use. This would likely place their date of origin closer to the 3rd century CE. But only further research and full translation of the codices can fully confirm the nature of the find. The larger lesson here is likely that of Ecclesiastes 3:1—be patient, since “to everything there is a season.”

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