During autumn, the weather in Delhi is perfect: the monsoon rains have passed and the temperature is in the high 20s. There are some lively festivals at this time of year, including Navaratri (October 16th-23rd), during which there are ten days of street festivals, dancing, Ramlila plays and finally the burning of giant effergies of the God Ravana. The largest celebration during autumn is Diwali (November 3rd this year.) To celebrate the Hindu New Year and the triumph of good over evil, the city is filled with glittering lights - tiny clay lamps flicker from every window - and fireworks fill the skies. Delicious sweets such as the milky burfi are sold on every street corner and the roads are strewn with marigold and rose petals or colourful Rangoli patterns made from coloured sand or chalk. It's a good time to visit as hotels offer deep discounts on rooms and shops have sale bonanzas of up to 40%. I would recommend the recently built Radisson Blu hotel in Paschim Vihar, where there is a tourist concierge who will arrange independent travel by car to all the local sights as well as the Golden Triangle. We were there last Diwali as practically the only guests -Indian families prefer to stay with relatives during this special period, so we were thoroughly spoiled with cakes, fruit and sweets and the undivided attention of dozens of hotel staff.
We were in Tel Aviv for six days and came back to this area a number of nights. The old port area has been renovated and was full of shops and restaurants on the water front. Some good bars and restaurants here especially our favourite, Cafe Nimrod.
Would definitely recommend a visit here in the evening. Great buzz about the place especially on the weekend.
Tel Aviv Old Port area (Namal)
North end of Dizengoff Street
Google map: bit.ly/StOTft
An absolute must see when coming to Jerusalem. The Hall of Names is particularly moving as you can see where pages of around three million names are stored around walls and the gaps for the many millions whose names of the victims we as yet do not know.
The Children's memorial commemorating the 1.5 million children who perished is haunting. This underground memorial has one solitary candle but with the use of hundreds of mirrors creates the effect of hundreds of candles throughout the building.
Additionally the Cattle Car memorial featuring an original German cattle cart used to transport Jews catches the eye as it is on a railway track suspended in the air.
One thing I would say is that despite having a map the outdoor area can be confusing to navigate and we frequently got lost.
P.O.B. 3477, Jerusalem 91034 Israel
Get the tram from Jaffa Road to the end of the line. A free shuttle bus will pick you up every 15 mins from a stop across from the tram stop.
Google map: bit.ly/TdtFyK
This world famous Madrid institution has been serving its famous chocolate con churros since 1894 and trying it is a must do experience when you are in Madrid. Dip your churros in the hot chocolate. Chocolate con churros is served all day and night (including during the early hours of the morning as is traditional for the clubbers of Madrid). It is a great cure for a sore throat and cold symptoms. A chocolate con churros costs three euros 80 cents which is actually very cheap.
Pasadizo de San Ginés, 11, 28013 Madrid
+34 91 365 65 46
Google map: bit.ly/W6LQtW
These houses are known as casas de malicia because they were designed to deceive.
The story behind this is that when it was decided in 1561 by Felipe II to move the royal court to Madrid, thereby making Madrid the official capital of Spain, there was insufficient space in Madrid (which at that time was just a small town) to house all of the people which made up his royal court. To solve this problem an edict was drawn up by Felipe II which stated that families who lived in houses with more than one floor had to give up one of the floors of their house to members of his royal court. This would ensure that all of his royal court had somewhere to live in Madrid. Naturally this edict was not received by the citizens of Madrid with great joy as they saw this edict merely as an abuse of power by Felipe II. So in order to avoid having to give up a floor of their house many families altered their houses by moving their rooms up to the higher floors of their dwelling, making false floors between the levels of the house, or moving the windows on the outside of the house around thus making it difficult to establish from street level how many floors the house actually had. Unfortunately a lot of the casas a la malicia in Madrid have disappeared but the best two examples still remain on calle del Toro and calle del Conde (both near the cathedral and the viaduct over calle de Segovia)
Google map: bit.ly/UCpxiU
Time was that when the Edinburgh Festival finished at the end of August the city quickly slipped back into its famous genteel torpor. No more. Nothing matches the city for vibrancy in the famously rainy month of August but September and October in Scotland's most enigmatic city are often drier and sunnier. Walking hand-in-hand down the old cobbled ginnels (alleyways) of the Old Town or sipping cocktails on any number of rooftop terraces like that of Harvey Nichols, the place is full of romantic possibilities. Wrap up well, there is a chill that blows in from the North Sea. There is plenty of culture from the newly refurbished Scottish National Museum and Scottish National Portrait Gallery to theatres and concerts, not to mention fine dining from the likes of Tom Kitchin and Mark Greenaway. And Edinburgh must be unique in that in the middle of the city there is not only a castle sitting on a volcanic plug but a little patch of the Highlands in the shape of Arthur’s Seat and Salisbury Crags. With the Scottish independence debate high on the agenda there has never been a better time to visit the Athens of the North.
Aim for a dry day to Potsdam which is on an easy S-bahn ride from Berlin. Follow the signs to the bike renting place upon leaving the station - it's only five minutes walk on the way to Potsdam centre. The 17km (11 miles) bike ride takes you through beautiful Potsdam, UNESCO Heritage site, to Sanssouci, baroque palace of Friedrich the Great, rococo OTT New Palace and myriad of other architectural curiosities in Sanssouci's opulent landscaped grounds. The trail continues through the stunning New Gardens with lakes and more palaces before crossing the Glienicke bridge immortalised in cold war films. Babelsbeg Park with its German film heritage is the oasis of tranquillity before the full circle is completed. Beautiful!
Google map: bit.ly/RsKmaE
It is a mysterious and interesting theme the one concerning the healing energies of Tombs of Giants in Sardinia. What is a fact, is the growing number of tourists and Sardinian people that every year visits them to treat headaches, anxiety, osteoporosis, sciatica, myopia.
A tourism of magical places that is becoming increasingly widespread in Sardinia, and that attracts the curious and passionate of the neolithic cures that are good for the soul and the body.
In some articles published in important Italian newspapers, this healing energy of the Giants' tombs was defined as neolithic radiotherapy and to feel the beneficial effects just settle on steel half an hour at a time, every morning or afternoon, all for about ten days, or, for those who practice the group therapy, stay in circle on the boulders and gradually the magnetic resonance is felt in the body.
But what is the 'rational' explanation of this energy?
Under the Earth's crust slide telluric energies and magnetic forces that make our planet an authentic 'organism'. Man, being of Mother Earth, has the faculty to interact and be very sensitive to these 'movements', and, in certain situations, to absorb them subconsciously.
Accumulators of these energies are the giants' graves, those strange constructions which cover the Sardinian territory and that we can find only in this region and nowhere else in the world, reason enough to consider them of great importance.
Who has chosen to build a temple in a certain place rather than another?
The ancient architecture is quite different from the modern one, because constructions were built not above nature, but within it, in a warm and vital embrace.
Several were the methods for the selection of places:
Often the so-called 'sensitive' chose the place where to build the sanctuary. These people with innate sensory capacity, were the druids or the 'holy men of the village'.
The neo temple, already full of the magnetic forces, was also enriched by the positive energy of inhabitants that went there to pray.
Often there was also the proximity of a water source, a fundamental element for rituals, as demonstrated by the many holy wells in Sardinia. In Gallura (the northern area of Sardinia) the nuragical sites are erected in the most of cases on places where are intense telluric forces.
The official medicine remains skeptical, but this does not prevent many people believing and getting involved by charming and interesting mysteries that Sardinia has to offer.
It’s no secret that Berlin isn’t too pretty and you don’t find a Medieval gem hidden round each corner, but frankly that’s not why you would visit so no shame in that. But if you are on the lookout for some old palaces, grand gardens and cute streets then look no further than Potsdam and bask in the glory of Frederick the Great’s architectural legacy.
And is it worth it? Yes, and I’d have been gutted if I had not gone, and ended up going twice. On the western edge of Park Sanssouci is the Neues Palais (take a bus from the station or hire a bike, although make sure you book in advance on sunny weekends) and then I wandered through the park past the Orangerie, the Chinese House and on to Schloss Sansoucci, Mr the Great’s favourite palace.
Maybe because it was the first one I saw or maybe because it is actually the most impressive, the Neues Palais stands out for me. It’s huge, it’s imposing, it’s incredible that anyone needed so many palaces, but apparently they did, and it’s possibly even more impressive than Pemberley, although Mr Darcy would probably make a more accommodating flatmate than Fred.
But what is more impressive is just wandering around the park on a sunny day and enjoying a completely different experience to Berlin, each part of the park you come across is interesting in it’s own right, and I’m sure I missed loads even after going twice. So you should go and check it out, even on a short trip to Berlin.
Potsdam itself is a nice place to explore, have some drinks, some food, a spot of shopping, and generally relax. We had lunch at Backstolz (on Dorturstrasse, just off Brandenburger Strasse) which was really nice.
While Leipzig is worthy of a short break itself, a little over an hour by train, it is also a managable day trip from Berlin. Plenty to do day and night, it's a city full of history, proud of it's leading role in the 1989 revolution. There's an interesting array of museums, including the former Stasi headquarters, now documenting the history of the Stasi. It also has some great nightlife with fab cafes and bars to kick back with a beer or cocktail.
Potsdam is a gem of a city, right on Berlin's doorstep. Just 30 minutues away by train and you are whisked away to world heritage sites and plenty more, from the gorgeous Schloss Sanssouci and parkland, the mini 'Brandenburg gate' which opens into the delightful shopping street Brandenburger Strasse, the Dutch Quarter or Park Babelberg. Potsdam is a not to be missed day trip for anyone visiting Berlin.
One hour west of Berlin, in the old eastern state of Brandenburg, lies Brandenburg an der Havel. With lakes, greenery and a walkable town centre, this historic small town has lots to offer outdoorsy visitors. The town's theatre, the Brandenburger Theater, offers shows ranging from musical performances to readings to straight theatre. Most of the town's sights can be reached by foot but a tram line runs down the small alleys and back streets, sometimes with terrifying proximity to shopfronts and doorways. Also worth a stop is the wine shop, Belmondo, in which you can buy a bottle to take home or (and?) stop to enjoy a glass of something local, all the while enjoying the sights of the old market square.
Everybody takes a trip to Postdam from Berlin, so why not do something different and spend a day in Dresden?
The capital of Saxony is only two hours away by train and it is rich with cultural and artistic history. The city was known as the Jewel Box, because of its baroque and rococo city centre. It was heavily bombed during WWII but it has been rebuilt and it looks amazing again.
Since the German reunification in 1990, Dresden has regained importance as one of the cultural, educational, political and economic centres of Germany.
If you are a fan of Karl Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse No. 5" don't miss the Karl Vonnegut Tour which runs daily. So it goes.
Direct Trains leave Berlin Hauptbahnhof every two hours (connection travel is also available). Dresden station is only 10-15 minutes away from the city centre on foot.
The Karl Vonnegut Tour runs daily at 11:00 am from Theaterplatz - King Johann, Dresden. www.kurtvonnegut-tour.com/
+49 (0) 172 78 15 007
Google map: bit.ly/QtAEql
An arch marking one of the main points of entry into Madrid from the western parts of Spain decorated with motifs and topped with regal statues. It is just as impressive as the Puerta de Toledo.
Nearest metro station: Príncipe Pío
Exit the metro station onto Cuesta San Vicente and the arch is on the roundabout in front of Príncipe Pío train station.
Google map: bit.ly/SPctPX
This street really reveals the hidden cafes and restaurants favoured by Madrileños such as La Brocense which is on this street.
Do not miss the 16th century pharmacy on the corner of calle Lope de Vega and calle León. On the outside of the pharmacy there are azulejo tiles and inside at the back of the shop as you go into it is an old till from when the pharmacy originally opened. On calle Lope de Vega itself there is also the convento San Ildefonso (which can be easily missed as it does not stand out from the buildings around it) where Miguel Cervantes is buried (the convent is not open to the public but a plaque on the outside of the building telling us that Cervantes is buried here is what you need to look for). Do not be fooled into thinking that this street is where Lope de Vega lived. The house where he actually lived is preserved as a museum and can be found on the next street on the right called calle Cervantes. Calle Lope de Vega is also a short cut to the Prado museum from Antón Martín metro station. If you follow calle Lope de Vega to is end it will bring you onto the paseo de Prado and the Prado museum is in front of you across the boulevard.
Nearest metro station: Antón Martín
Exit Antón Martín metro station and turn left onto calle Atocha. Cross calle Atocha and take the next street on your right. This is calle León. Go up calle León
and take the third street on the right which is calle Lope de Vega (you will see the pharmacy on your right hand side on the corner of calle Lope de Vega)
Calle de Lope de Vega, 30, 28014 Madrid, Spain
+34 914 29 00 99
Google map: bit.ly/UCdgcY
A quieter and more peaceful version of the nearby Puerta del Sol. The cafes and restaurants around the square can get busy during the evening with locals popping in and having meals after seeing a play at the Teatro Español which is on the square. However the cafes and restaurants here are much cheaper than in the pricier Plaza Mayor. Just keep your wits about you at night and an eye on your wallet/purse as thieves do operate in this square and the surrounding streets as police do not patrol this area.
Nearest metro station: Sol
Plaza de Santa Ana is a 15 min walk from the Puerta del Sol and is best approached from calle Principe off Carrera de San Jerónimo
Google map: bit.ly/VBwr4A
Two hours out of Berlin, taking the train from Hauptbanhof, is the city of Dessau, home to the Bauhaus School in the years between the decline of the Weimar republic and the rise of Nazi Germany. A testament to changing times and attitudes, the buildings represent a style of building established many years later. Turn right out of Dessau station and the main school buildings are five minutes’ walk away. Here you can stop for a tour and find out more about the work that inspired architects and designers for years to come, as well as grab a beer and something to eat in the basement restaurant; but there is much more with the masters’ houses a few minutes away and then a stylish restaurant on the banks of the Elbe a further ten minutes walk. All over the city are examples of the work of members of the school, with also the delight of taking one of the city’s trams to see the southern suburbs. The city is a must for the architectural history enthusiast as well as the social historian.
Deassau Station has a regular service direct from Berlin Hauptbanhof.
Google map: bit.ly/Sp9oLu
"Brush with the devil in the 'other' Frankfurt."
On the easternmost frontier of Germany and separated from Poland by the Oder river is the other Frankfurt. An hour by train from Berlin this is the birthplace of Heinrich von Kleist, the C18th playwright and author of Prinz Friedrich von Homburg. Magnificent, red brick Gothic buildings dominate this old Hanseatic outpost. The Marienkirche church includes unique and incredible C14th stained glass windows depicting the life of the very normal looking antichrist and his pack of demons. Wander over the river to Slubice, part of Frankfurt until 1945, for lunch in Poland.
Google map: bit.ly/SpaC9I
Even with the wealth of architecture to see in Berlin, it's good to get out of the city and visit a small town in former East Germany that was so influential in development of craft, art and design.
Dessau was the home of the Bauhaus from 1926 to 1932, with such 'masters' as Kandinsky and Klee, and designers like Josef & Anni Albers. There are numerous groundbreaking white concrete-faced buildings around town, but the highlight is Gropius' Bauhaus building, with its stylish balconies and wealth of workshops inside.
From Berlin, trains are only 90 minutes from Hauptbahnhof, costing around £35 return. Once in Dessau, all of the buildings are free to visit, and there are frequent guided tours in English and German.
You will get to see the Masters' Houses decorated just as when they lived in them, and a short tram ride away is an entire estate of 1930s workers housing, some of which you can visit or even stay in!
This street is quiet compared to the bustling Gran Vía barely a block behind it and it has some pretty coloured houses with flowered balconies. Close to the end of the street you will find a calm and shady plaza next to the Casa de las Siete Chímineas. The fact that it now houses council and government offices belies the ghost story associated with this building.
It is said that every night the ghost of Elena shows herself on the roof between the seven chimneys. Her sad and extremely tragic plight is this: the mansion was built by a huntsman in the court of king Carlos V for his daughter Elena. More importantly, rumour had it that Elena was actually the mistress of the son of Carlos V - Felipe (who went on to become King Felipe II) and that it was on Felipe's orders that the mansion was built. In any case soon after the completion of the mansion Elena married an army captain. Sadly not long after their marriage Elena's husband died in the line of duty and Elena herself died of a broken heart. Yet just before she died Elena gave birth to a girl. Nobody knows what happened to the baby. The house servants firmly believed that Elena had been murdered because of her illicit and compromising relationship with Felipe. Unfortunately it could not be proved if Elena was murdered or not as her body disappeared from the house shortly after her death. Elena's father was detained and questioned by the police but he was released only to hang himself from one of the rafters of the house where Elena and her husband had lived. Then a few months later a farmer returning home saw a ghostly pale figure shuffling to and fro between the chimneys on the roof of the Casa de las Siete Chímineas. The figure pointed towards the royal palace where king Felipe II resided thus condemning the king for having had her murdered and her body hidden thus denying her a proper burial. Some believe this ghostly figure to be Elena herself or the girl she gave birth to wandering alone on the roof with no parents to take care of her. Years later workmen did find a human skeleton under the basement of the house. To add more mystery the skeleton was proven to be that of a female and was buried with 16th century coins with the image of Felipe II on them!
Nearest metro station: Gran Vía
Exit Gran Via metro station onto Gran Vía
itself. Using the zebra crossing cross
Gran Vía and go up calle Fuencarral (immediately opposite Gran Vía metro station). Take the first right onto calle Infantas and on the left hand side of the street just before you just get to the plaza at the end of the street you will see the casa de las siete chímineas.
Plaza del Rey, 1, 28004 Madrid, Spain
Google map: bit.ly/NOlOL8
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