Monthly Archives: March 2017

A Romantic Trip to Cleveland

For most people Cleveland is firmly off the radar when it comes to romantic holiday destinations, but, for those willing to give the city a chance, there are a number of excellent attractions that are perfect for couples.

The city’s West Side Market is a well-known culinary attraction and a good place to start our romantic adventure. Wandering through its aisles of fresh and cooked-food stalls is a hugely satisfying experience for food enthusiasts and it’s made even better by the market’s historic setting

If the weather’s nice outside, buy some food at the market and have a romantic picnic at Edgewater Park, which is just a few minutes away by car. This park is set on Lake Erie and offers great views of the city skyline.

One neighborhood that couples should make a point to visit while in Cleveland is University Circle. Here visitors will find tree-lined streets, historic houses and a host of attractions suitable for couples.

The Cleveland Botanical Garden is in the neighborhood and is the place to go for a romantic stroll. Once visitors are done exploring its ten acres of manicured gardens they can visit the garden’s glasshouse, which has sections devoted to both the Costa Rican rainforest and the Madagascar spiny desert.

Art lovers, meanwhile, will be pleased to know that University Circle hosts both the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland (MOCA).

The Cleveland Museum of Art should be travelers’ first stop, as it is the larger of the two museums and houses a collection of more than 40,000 pieces that spans several centuries and continents. The museum’s huge endowment has allowed it to collect some truly exemplary pieces and keep the admission free at the same time.

Nearby, MOCA has only just moved into its new, visually striking home, which was designed by acclaimed architect Farshid Moussavi. MOCA, however, is a non-collecting institution, which means that its appeal to visitors is dependent upon the exhibitions it hosts. Of course, there are a number of rotating exhibitions that often feature prominent artists from around the United States and some up-and-comers from the Cleveland Area, but be sure to look at the schedule in advance.

Another high-culture activity in University Circle is the Cleveland Orchestra. Founded in 1918, the Cleveland Orchestra is a member of the “Big Five” club of the nation’s premier symphony orchestras. Playing out of the stately Severance Hall, a night out at the orchestra can be incredibly fun and romantic. Dressing up in suits and cocktail dresses and enjoying wine over intermission, what’s not to like?

To get the most of their trip to Cleveland, couples should consider staying at the Glidden House Hotel. This stunning boutique hotel is situated right in the heart of University Circle, just across the street from the Cleveland Botanical Garden, and its early 20th century architecture harkens back to a time when travel was more glamorous and much less arduous.

The Glidden House Hotel is also perfect for couples looking to tie the knot, as the hotel hosts a number of events and weddings. Just imagine the scene, as a handsome couple expresses their unadulterated love underneath a gazebo on the hotel’s well-kept grounds before retiring into the gothic-style mansion for a banquet with friends and family.

Those wishing to venture outside of Cleveland – honeymoon perhaps? – can check out some of the many wineries in Ashtabula and Lake Counties, which are both just east of the city. The areas around the towns Madison and Geneva-On-The-Lake are particularly scenic.

Travel Guide to Kathmandu and its Attractions

Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal is a haven for tourists. The moment you step off the plane you’ll feel you are in another world altogether. The sights, sounds and smells are a prelude to the excitement, adventure, and exhilaration that await you in this enchanting city.

Kathmandu has attracted tourists ever since Nepal first opened its doors to foreigners in the 1950’s. The first visitors were the mountaineers who came here with dreams to conquer the highest peaks in the world including Mt. Everest. Gradually it became a haven for the hippies who flocked here in the 1960’s and 70s in search of the ultimate Shangri-la at the end of the trail.

Visitors to Kathmandu seek enlightenment in the heart of nature, in the serene Buddhist monasteries, and in the magnificent Hindu temples. It is believed that once upon a time, the number of temples in Kathmandu equaled the houses of the people who lived in the city. Gradual urbanization, however, took over, yet even now you can find a medieval temple tucked away in almost every street in Kathmandu.

Today, tourism is a major industry in the city and indeed in Nepal. Look around and you will find a host of swish shops, Internet cafes, swanky restaurants and hotels jostling for space with the palaces and temples. Visit the stretch from Durbar Square to Thamel, the haven for trekkers and backpackers, and you will be amazed to see the number of people who have converged here from across the globe to experience the intoxication of the city.

Away from the tourist hotspots, a heritage walk of Kathmandu will reveal its amazing cultural and artistic legacy. Temples resplendent in marigolds, courtyards full of drying chillis and rice, and tiny workshops unchanged since the Middle Ages, will transcend you to another era, to another time, when life was less complex, pleasures more simple, people more warm, and beauty more abundant.

Things To See

Kathmandu, with its hundreds of palaces, shrines, temples and statues dotting the narrow streets, resembles an open air museum. It is then little wonder that the city was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. Standing in complete contrast are a bewildering number of casinos, nightclubs, hotels, restaurants, and bars. The peaceful co-existence of two diametrically opposite worlds under a handful of sky is what draws people to the beautiful city protected by the majestic Himalayas.

Thamel: Thamel is the tourist hub of Kathmandu. A stroll through the meandering alleys can be an intoxicating experience. Here, pedestrians jostle for space with rickshaws, cows, bikes all next to the bazaars piled high with spices and silks. The narrow streets from here lead to Kathmandu’s main tourist attraction, the Durbar Square cluttered with remarkable Newari temples and palaces.

National Museum: Located at Chhauni near Swayambhunath, the museum houses an impressive collection of ancient artifacts, statues, paubha scroll paintings, medieval weaponry and relics of the earthquake of 1934. The museum opens daily from 9.30 AM to 3.30 PM, except on Sundays, Mondays and government holidays.

Changu Narayan Temple: Dedicated to the Hindu God Vishnu, this beautiful temple, embellished with exquisite wood and stone carvings, has one of the finest and oldest specimens of pagoda architecture.

Chobhar: Situated nine-kilometers southwest of Kathmandu, this place is a must visit for nature enthusiasts. There is a famous gorge here from where the water of the valley drains through. There is also a small but postcard-perfect temple of Adinath on the hilltop from where you can take in the panoramic views of the snow-capped mountain peaks.

Dakshinkali Temple: The temple is dedicated to one of the most important Hindu goddesses. It is an important pilgrim spot for the Hindus who visit it in large numbers for offering prayers and sacrifices. The place has been developed as a picnic spot.

Heritage Walk: The Heritage Walk enables you to explore some of the lesser visited though equally fascinating historic sites in Kathmandu. The walk starts at Teku, south of old Kathmandu and weaves its way to Wonder Narayan, a 17th century temple dedicated to the Hindu deity, Lord Vishnu. After a stop at Hyumat Tole, proceed to Kusah Bahi, a Buddhist courtyard built in 1754. The next stop is the Narayan Dewal, a beautiful temple dating back to 1865. You will see Tukan Baha, built in the 14th century as a replica of the Swayambhu stupa. Walk to the Ram temple at the Ramchandra Dewal and then reach Jaisi Dewal, a huge Shiva temple built in 1688. Stroll to Kohiti where you can study the Buddhist and Hindu sculptures in this sunken water fountain. You will also pass by Chikan Mugaland and Atko Narayan Dewal. The Walk also takes you to the namesake of the city, the Kasthamandap pavilion. The final destination is the Bhimsen Dewal, built in 1655 and dedicated to the main deity of local traders.

Festivals and Events

Nepal’s colorful heritage finds rich reflection in its festivals and events. The festival calendar begins with the celebration of the Tibetan New Year in January/February. The celebrations are marked by processions at Bodhnath and Buddhist ceremonies at Swayambhunath and Jawlakhel near Patan. February also sees the celebrations of Shivratri, a festival dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva. Colorful celebrations take place at the Pashupatinath Temple.

Holi, a festival of colors, is celebrated in March while April/May is the time for the month-long chariot festival to honor Machhendranath, the god of rain. Buddha Jayanti, or Lord Buddha’s birthday is celebrated with enthusiasm at Swayambhunath, Bodhnath, and Jawlakhel in Patan in May/June. Hindus stage the colorful Indra yatra, or chariot processions with masked dances and animal sacrifices to honor Indra, the god of war and weather. Tihar, or the Nepalese version of Diwali, the festival of lights, is celebrated in October/November.

Five Days in Japan

With just five days in Japan, it’s time to hustle. The wealth of offerings means there’s no shortage of customizable itineraries, but one that allows a look into both the traditional history and modern oddities of Japan is Osaka-Kyoto-Nara-Tokyo. This route is also a good compromise for those who want a balance between urban and outdoor settings as well as modern sites to temper the overwhelming number of temples and shrines.

Day 1: Get accustomed in Osaka

Osaka is excellent starting point to a Japanese adventure. The city is busy but safe, and although the train lines are complicated, the streets are not. The Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Noodle Museum is a fun, family-friendly adventure, and visitors can even make a cup of instant ramen with freeze-dried toppings of their choosing to take home. In the afternoon, it’s time for some culture in the form of Osaka Castle, which now operates as a museum and is especially breathtaking in cherry blossom season, and Shitenno-ji, a Buddhist temple built in 593.

Dotonburi is the best neighborhood for nightlife. Tons of bars, some barely big enough for the bar and six stools, crowd the streets. Fill up on takoyaki (grilled octopus balls) while wandering up and down the streets and mentally mapping out which bars to hit.

Day 2: Temples, shrines and palaces in Kyoto

Kyoto’s long and varied history can be seen at the plethora of shrines and temples dotting the city, and that’s just the tip. The Golden Temple, Kinkaku-ji, and Silver Temple, Ginkaku-ji, are two must-sees, as is the ridiculously impressive Imperial Palace. Palace tours require advance booking, but just walking around the park is enough to bliss out.

Day 3: Deer and more temples in Nara

Nara is a quick, sweet day trip. The town’s famed deer in Nara Park are ready to make friends with visitors who buy bags of biscuits from vendors. From there, the paths are well-marked, and travelers can pick and choose from a plethora of sites. Todai-ji, a Buddhist temple, looms over visitors, a marked reminder of Nara’s past as Japan’s first permanent capital. Kasuga Taisha is a color-soaked Shinto shrine, and Yoshikien Gardens feature three distinct Japanese gardens. It’s not necessary to put much planning into a day in Nara: with its organized paths and easy-going vibe, it’s ideal to just wander, sit and wander some more.

Days 4 and 5: A race around Tokyo

At last, it’s time to enjoy Tokyo with the added bonus of having kind of figured out the train lines in Osaka. Those who take the night bus (rather than the bullet train) will arrive in Tokyo just in time to enjoy a leisurely breakfast in Tokyo Station and a gander around the neighborhood before heading over to the Imperial Palace, which opens at 9 a.m. Try to arrive a few minutes beforehand to get an advantage on the tour groups. The palace is home to the Imperial Family, and is surrounded by huge park-like grounds, most of which visitors are free to explore.

The last day in Tokyo starts with, yes, another temple. Sensu-ji is Tokyo’s largest and lies in the district of Asakusa. The bustling district features a large open-air market leading up to the shrine that sells everything from homemade snacks to children’s toys. This is the time to splurge, as many shops sell kabuki prints, silks, original art, food and more. After shopping and paying respects, follow the shouts of servers to the restaurants that line the nearby narrow roads. And after that, a walk around the surrounding, much quieter blocks is a good way to start winding down after a whirlwind trip. If your legs are up for it, spend the last yen on Sun Road, a covered street containing tons of shops and a used electronics bazaar, and is part of the incredibly popular Kichijoji neighborhood.

Modern Art in Berlin and Historic Sights in Munich

Germany is one of the most pleasant travel destinations in all of Europe and no cities encapsulate what Germany is all about more than Berlin and Frankfurt. Berlin showcases the hipness and creativity of modern-day Germany, while Munich is a living museum of the historical and cultural charms of the German past.

Also, just because the two cities are on opposite sides of the country doesn’t mean that one can’t visit both in a single trip, as Munich to Berlin by train can be done in as little as six hours.

Modern Art in Berlin

It was only 20 years ago that Berlin was a city divided and the Berlin Wall stood between West Berlin and the Soviet-dominated East Berlin. When the wall came down in 1989 the two cities merged and became one of the world’s most eclectic capitals.

Though the contrast between the two sides is less clear today, the area formerly encompassing East Berlin has long been a haven for artists and bohemians looking to live affordably and harness the city’s creative vibe.

One place to see Berlin’s creative vitality on full display is the neighborhood of Mitte. Formerly a district in East Berlin, Mitte is now at the direct center of the unified Berlin and is home to the majority of the city’s preeminent art galleries.

Dittrich & Schlechtriem is a relatively new entrant onto the gallery scene, having opened in 2011, but the gallery is already making a big name for itself. Staffed by super hip artists and art lovers, this gallery prides itself in showcasing exhibitions from top, young local talent.

Nearby, the Carlier Gebauer gallery has been a stalwart on the Berlin art scene since 1991. Hosting only the most acclaimed local artists, both established and emerging, in its three exhibition rooms, the galley has earned its place as one of the city’s top galleries.

Another inspiring gallery in Mitte is the Johann König gallery, where movers and shakers from across the German art world come to see incredible contemporary art exhibitions. No true art aficionado should miss it, as it’s considered to be one of the world’s most influential galleries.

Historic Sights in Munich

Munich is the capital of the southern German state of Bavaria and it has an entirely different feel to it than Berlin. Instead of modern art museums and hip nightclubs, visitors to Munich can expect to find historic architecture, charming plazas and grand churches.

Marienplatz is a square at the center of Munich and is a good place from which to start exploring the city’s attractions, as two of the city’s chief attractions are located right on the square: the New Town Hall and the Old Town Hall.

Constructed in the late 19th century by architect Georg von Hauberrisser, the New Town Hall was built in a Gothic architectural style and forms an imposing sight, as its spire rises almost 260 feet above Marienplatz. Nearby is the building it replaced, the Old Town Hall. Also built in the Gothic architectural style, but in the 16th century, the Old Town Hall is much more modest than the New Town Hall, but is nevertheless beautiful to behold.

Another historic attraction in the city center is the Frauenkirche, which is Munich’s principal cathedral and features heavily in postcards of the city. The church’s towers, at 325 feet, dominate the skyline of Munich and the city even has a law that forbids buildings from obstructing views of the 15th century cathedral.

At one time Marienplatz was also home to Munich’s farmer’s market, but now that honor goes to Viktualienmarkt, which is only one block to the southeast. Open every day except Sunday, the market is home to 140 stalls that sell everything from flowers and produce to cooked gourmet foods. Stick around to enjoys it beer garden for a true Munich experience.