Eka Kvaliashvili Makes a Music Video

19 07 2010

She hardly ever makes any music videos, but when she does it’s something.

This time I was not only invited to the shooting venue, but also was one of the cast. Eka made a progressive move and arranged a facebook casting. She said that it has turned out to be very successful, because all the users already had online profiles and photos and she knew who she was dealing with.

She tried to find models through agencies, before announcing a facebook casting and as Eka said – “They’ve sent me some feminine sissy boys, which is certainly not what a girl wants!” I believe facebook casting is the thing for the future.

I can’t wait to see the final video. It promises to be very vivid and funny.

Here are some photos from the shooting venues (courtesy Shorena Tevzadze)





Premiere Destination – Her Majesty, UK!

12 07 2010
London Eye

London Eye

London is a truly majestic place! Everyone should visit UK at least once. What I really liked about it was that everyone spoke perfect English!:) Most of my journey was fun and joy, except some minor obstacles along the way. The major problem was the flaming volcano in Iceland – Eyjafjallajökull. I was travelling together with my lovely companion Tika Jokhadze. Sadly for us the flight to London was cancelled because of the Volcano and we have spent endless hours in a northern hub – waiting for our connection! Minutes start turning into the hours and the hours turn into the days -roaming about the passenger zone hating all the duty free shops, cafe bars and airports, but we have survived it. It was already late when finally skies have opened up and the planes were allowed to fly again. We got on board and in about two hours and at about 10 p.m local time we have landed at London’s Gatwick Airport.

One thing that you need to know about UK transportation is that you can reach most of the destinations by train, but they stop operating between 0:30 and 5:00 am (proximately and depending on directions). Had we have arrived a bit later we would be stuck in the airport (again!!!) until the morning. Fortunately we had just about time to make it to the last train. You need a “first capital connect” to take you to the center – either London Bridge or Victoria Station. You can check your rout on a transport for London’s web-site.

Mind the gap

Mind the gap

Transport in London is very expensive so it is advisable to buy pre-paid travel cards. I recommend buying 7 day travel card that is valid for Tube, DLR and London Overground, Bus, Tram and National Rail. It may cost some 25-30 GBP depending on the zones that you intend to travel, but compared to what you will have to pay as you go without the card, that is really cheap! It is also very comfortable, as you don’t have to mess with the ticket machines each time you need to make a journey. And you can avoid cues during the busy hours. If you don’t intend to use London’s transport very often you may consider another option – that is Oyster Card (Oyster pay as you go). For example, is you normally have to pay 4£ by cash for a single journey with Oyster card that would be only 1.80£ (Zone 1).

London DLR

London DLR

London’s rail system is large and may seem confusing, but once you get used to it London’s Transport is the most convenient and easy way to travel! Even if you get lost TFL has a special staff for you to help! Just ask them the directions and they will be glad to help you! Rail and tube maps are also freely available, so grab one. You will need it.

There are many mini cafes on the platforms that sell very delicious muffins, coffee and other snack that you can take on train and enjoy your meal while reading the papers. People are generally very noisy and talk a lot. During the late evening hours most of the passengers tend to be a bit drunk, but it’s still quite safe.

Food in London

Angus Steak House

Angus Steak House

Fish and chips! Definitely! There are just too many restaurants and pubs and most of them are great. Especially the ones with traditional English green woody look and feel. I am not really big fan of English beer (or Ale), so I tried to find the places where they had some Czech or German beer. Tika and I both loved to dine at Angus – I went with freshly battered fillet of fish served with chips and mushy peas or Grilled Scottish Salmons With spinach and mashed potato (Yammm!).

Tika ate so many ribs and steaks of the poor animals, until she got sick 🙂 So be careful not to over eat! Everything is very tasty and tempting, but be reasonable. Otherwise you will end-up swimming in a steak sauce.

Angus Steak House

Angus Steak House

These are some of our photos. Approximate bill for two – 60 £. I have to mention thought that Angus is one of the most expensive places and if you are on a budget, you can dine somewhere else for as little as 4-5£. Especially during the happy hours, when prices drop by 50 % !!!

Enjoy the spirit of London

Tika and I had a plenty of time to enjoy London and have most of it. We have spent two wonderful weeks there walking in the parks, visiting countless museums and attractions. When had some homework to do we went to green park and did it there. Under the shades of blooming trees. We didn’t have much homework to do though and it took only couple of minutes, but fooling around like we were some teenage students was really a rewarding experience!

Have you heard about Ale? – Personally I didn’t like it. I still prefer a good old Czech beer! But it was still worth trying.
But being in London why not take advantage and try varieties of Irish beers and Gueness of course!

Go Beyond !

Prime Meridian

Prime Meridian

You may spend many hours if not days visiting fabulous shops, theaters, pubs, parks and many other places in the downtown, but you should go a little bit farther!

One of the options is Greenwich. The famous meridian 0°00′00″

The Prime Meridian and its opposite the 180th meridian (at 180° longitude), which the International Date Line generally follows, form a great circle that divides the Earth into the Eastern and Western Hemispheres.

On a Prime Meridian

On a Prime Meridian

By international convention, the modern Prime Meridian passes through the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, in southeast London, United Kingdom, known as the International Meridian or Greenwich Meridian, although the Prime Meridian is ultimately arbitrary unlike the parallels of latitude, which are defined by the rotational axis of the Earth with the Poles at 90° and the Equator at 0°.

The modern Greenwich Meridian, based at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, was established by Sir George Airy in 1851. By 1884, over two-thirds of all ships and tonnage used it as the reference meridian on their maps. In October of that year, at the behest of U.S. President Chester A. Arthur, 41 delegates from 25 nations met in Washington, D.C., USA, for the International Meridian Conference. This conference selected the Greenwich Meridian as the official Prime Meridian due to its popularity. However, France abstained from the vote and French maps continued to use the Paris Meridian for several decades.

London's Only Planetarium

London’s Only Planetarium

The Greenwich Meridian is now marked at night by a laser beam emitted northwards from the observatory.

Greenwich also has the great Planetarium with breathtaking effects and a Live narrator!

The show is interactive and fun. I wish all the children in the world were as lucky to have planetariums like this. We’ve enjoyed it much. Highly recommended especially if you are traveling with children.

The place is easily accessible by train and it is only minutes away from the center.

Stonehenge

Stonehenge

If you have some more time go outside London one of the must see destinations is Stonehenge of course. It is a prehistoric monument located in the English county of Wiltshire, about 3.2 kilometres west of Amesbury and 13 kilometres north of Salisbury. One of the most famous sites in the world, Stonehenge is composed of earthworks surrounding a circular setting of large standing stones. It is at the center of the most dense complex of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments in England, including several hundred burial mounds.

Archaeologists had believed that the iconic stone monument was erected around 2500 BC, as described in the chronology below.

The tour takes only a couple of hours so you can take a combined tours with Roman Baths and Windsor Castle. All major tour operators make this tour available.

Back to London for some more entertainment now

London's I-max

London’s I-max

Best I-max experience in the world! The London IMAX is an IMAX cinema in the South Bank district of London, England, just north of Waterloo Station. It is operated by the British Film Institute.

The cinema is located in the centre of a roundabout on Waterloo Road.

The London IMAX was designed by Avery Associates Architects and completed in May 1999. By far the largest screen in Britain (20m high and 26m wide) it has a seating capacity of just under 500 and a 12,000 Watt digital surround sound system.

I-Max and the Prince of Persia

I-Max and the Prince of Persia

We were lucky enough to be able to be on a premiere of the “Prince of Persia, The Sands of Time” – 2010 fantasy-adventure film written by Jordan Mechner. The film is based on the 2003 video game of the same name. Sadly, the movie was not in 3D, but we’ve enjoyed watching in in a gigantic screen with true I-max experience!

Besides cinemas there are tens of theaters playing the masterpieces of eternal classic musicals and modern advantaged – from “Les Misérables” to “Naked Soldiers in the Warehouse” – The choice is yours!

A Flight on a London Eye

On a London Eye

On a London Eye

You may visit the Windsor palace and the Tower and all the famous sightseeing in London, but your journey would not be complete without a flight on a London eye. It’s called flight, because the construction of this attraction was sponsored by British Airways.

This year London eye celebrates its 10th year anniversary and offers discount tickets for only 10 pounds. Alternatively you can take advantage of Southern Railways (if you use one) and get it for 2 for 1 promo price. (Tika found out about this promo, so all the credits go to her!)

Useful Tips

London may seem expensive on a first sight, but it really is not. There are certain golden rules that you have to know about traveling on a budget. It certainly applies to London too.

There are two things that hurt you budget most – accommodation and food.

1. Remember that residential areas away from the touristic hot spots tend to be less expensive. If you have a cheap and safe place to stay, you are good to go! Don’t be tempted by super luxurious accommodations, you will hardly spend any time there anyway. You just need a simple, clean and safe place to spend a night there.

2. Dining in the restaurants and cafe-bars are expensive. Just a single visit to a good restaurant for a couple may cost you about 60-80 pounds. While going to supermarkets with the same amount of money you could buy wide variety of products for 3-4 days. Go to Tesco’s, cause you know – every little counts!

Budget

So how much money you need to plan your trip to London?

Total spendings in London for two weeks including Air fare, accommodation, food, trip to Stonehenge, attractions, travel cards, study and a bit of a shopping – about 1500 Euros!

To break it down:
1. Air Fare – 350 Euros (approx.)
2. Accommodation (Half Board) and Study – 560 Euros
3. Travel cards for London transport – 60 GBP + 20 GBP (approx. for shuttle services)
4. London Eye – 10 GBP (Limited Time Offer) other discount options available
5. Museums – Almost all museums in London are free
6. Trip to Stonehenge – 25 GBP
7. Restaurants and shoppings – Uncountable :))





My Top 5 Destinations: 2 – Czech Republic

13 05 2010

Great! Now we are on a position 2 of my top 5 destinations. It was hard to decide between the first two, but here it is Czech Republic on the 2nd place!

I have never been so many times to any other country than Czech republic and it keeps me coming back for more. so what is it about it?

Culture, Music, Architecture, Food, People and Fun – all of this at its best! It is a very democratic and developed country. As you know democracy and freedom of speech matter a lot and Czech republic takes number 11 (out of 144 countries) in the Global Peace Index, number 14 (out of 169 countries) in Reporters Without Borders’ list and has one of the highest human development index – 32 (from total of 178 countries). Just for a comparison, even USA – the “cradle of democracy” stays way behind this tiny beautiful republic.

How it starts!

On boards of Czech Airlines!

On boards of Czech Airlines!

It is a really short flight form Tbilisi to Prague’s Ruzyně Airport. Many of my posts clearly describes the whole process of getting around it and finding your way to down-town, but I will explain once more. After a very pleasant flight on board of CSA you are going to meet the very first Czech people at the Passport Control – Say “Dobry Den!” to great them and thank them after they put a stamp in your passport – “Děkujeme a nashledanou” (Thank you and Goodbye!)…. Remember this words, as you are going to use them time and again in Prague!

As soon as you get out of the Airport there is a bust stop. Buy the combined tickets for a bus and a metro. Same ticket is valid for both means of transport. Bus number 119 takes you to Dejvická metro station. From that point you are just minutes away from most of the destinations!

Prague City Center

Kde Sokolská ulice?

Kde Sokolská ulice?

Depending on which part of a town you hotel is located it’s advised to go that direction first. I usually book hotels near the central districts so that it would be easily accessible any time by metro or simply by walking. Here on this photo we are trying to find Olya’s hotel at Sokolská ulice. We have a plenty of time to kill before we’ll be able to check in so we’ve decided to take a little walk. Sokolská ulice is near the metro station I.P. Pavlova – we are standing with our map at the Museum – great, it’s only a 10 minutes walk away! Let’s go!

So keep in mind that you arrive in Prague pretty early! You won’t be able to check in hotel until about 1 or 2 p.m! So make sure you can leave you baggage at the hotel or book an early check in (for additional fee) to go directly your room and take a nap! I usually don’t do that in warmer seasons, but in winter it is highly advised! It is very very very cold in Prague in winter!

Once you get rid of the load you are free to go roam and walk around in the down town. Vaclavsky Namesty is one of the main streets and there you can find lots of free WiFi spots to connect to and communicate with you friends or make free IP calls. You can also have a little breakfast or coffee at Starbucks. When you are fully charged and filled with energy go ahead and visit everything!

What to see?

Make My Wish Come True

Make My Wish Come True

In each and every hotel there are free tourist maps available there. All the must see destinations are outlined and explained.

Go to Charles Bridge which is very beautiful! Its construction started in 1357 under the auspices of King Charles IV, and finished in the beginning of the 15th century. As the only means of crossing the river Vltava (Moldau), the Charles Bridge was the most important connection between the Old Town, Prague Castle and adjacent areas until 1841. The bridge was originally called the Stone Bridge (Kamenný most) or the Prague Bridge (Pražský most) but has been the “Charles Bridge” since 1870.

The Old Town bridge tower is often considered to be one of the most astonishing civil gothic-style buildings in the world. The bridge is decorated by a continuous alley of 30 statues and statuaries, most of them baroque-style, erected around 1700.

During the night the Charles Bridge is a quiet place. But during the day it changes its face into a very busy place, with painters, owners of kiosks and other traders alongside numerous tourists crossing the bridge. There is one statue that make you wishes come true when you put your hand on it and there are many nice places there. There you may see people singing, dancing, painting and doing all sorts of interesting things there.

Feeding the goats

Feeding the goats

Don’t just limit yourself with standard tourist attractions, go little beyond! Go to Prague TV center or go to Zoo to spend a very pleasant day there. It was founded in 1931 with the goal to “advance the study of zoology, protect wildlife, and educate the public” in the district of Troja in the north of Prague. The zoo occupies 45 hectares (111 acres) and houses about 4,600 animals that represent 630 species from all around the world. Prague Zoological Garden has contributed significantly to saving the Przewalski horse. For many years it was the biggest breeder of the species in the world. In 2008 Forbes Traveler Magazine listed Prague ZOO among the world’s best zoos.

If you love animals just as much as I do you you get a truly rewarding experience from feeding the animals and watching many exotic creatures having fun and living their wild life in great Czech Zoo!

Karlovy Vary

Karlovy Vary

and definitely go farther and take one of the offered tours to Karlovy Vary – a spa city situated in western Bohemia, on the confluence of the rivers Ohře and Teplá, approximately 130 km west of Prague. . It is historically famous for its hot springs (13 main springs, about 300 smaller springs, and the warm-water Teplá River).

It became a popular tourist destination, especially for international celebrities visiting for spa treatment. The city is also known for the popular Czech liqueur Karlovarská Becherovka. The glass manufacturer Moser Glass is located in Carlsbad. The city has also given its name to the famous delicacy known as “Carlsbad plums”. These plums (usually Quetsch) are candied in hot syrup, then halved and stuffed into dried damsons; this gives them a very intense flavor.

Grandhotel Pupp

Grandhotel Pupp

The city has been used as the location for a number of film-shoots, including the 2006 films Last Holiday (with Queen Latifa trying to jump of the window) and box-office hit Casino Royale, both of which used the city’s Grandhotel Pupp in different guises.

And there I am in front of the famous Pupp!

You will surely get confused with all the treatment services offer in Karlovy Vary! All kinds of spas and treatment procedures are at your service. One of the most interesting for me it was Beer Therapy – a procedure where you take a beer bath and swim in the Czech beer! What a waste for such a great product I thought, but the nurse cheered me up with some comforting information that all the beer is filtered afterwords and it’s sent to third world countries like Russia and other states from the former soviet block. (Kidding!)

Now a bit of a Short History

The Czech state or Bohemia (Lands of the Bohemian Crown) as it was known until 1918 was formed in the late 9th century. The country reached its greatest territorial extent during the 13th and 14th century under the rule of the Přemyslid and Luxembourg dynasties. Following the Battle of Mohács in 1526, the Kingdom of Bohemia was integrated into the Habsburg monarchy as one of its three principal parts alongside Austria and Hungary. The independent Republic of Czechoslovakia was formed in 1918, following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire after World War I. After the Munich Agreement, German occupation of Czechoslovakia and the consequent disillusion with the Western response and gratitude for the liberation of the major portion of Czechoslovakia by the Red Army, the Communist party won plurality in the 1946 elections.

In a 1948 Czechoslovakia became a communist-ruled state. In 1968, the increasing dissatisfaction culminated in attempts to reform the communist regime. The events, known as the Prague Spring of 1968, ended with an invasion by the armies of the Warsaw Pact countries (That’s why we hate Russia so much :); the troops remained in the country until the 1989 Velvet Revolution, when the communist regime collapsed. On 1 January 1993, Czechoslovakia peacefully dissolved into its constituent states, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Things started to become better year after year. Today Czech republic is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe, because of its beautiful architecture that make the whole country an open air museum, full of places that you never get bored visiting and beautiful Czech people full of glamor and sparkle! I am a very social person myself and I usually interact with everyone and make friends everywhere. Prague was a great experience in these terms. They showed a great deal hospitality and excellent human qualities: “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had” (Revelation 2:4) for Madonna and didn’t party like you should at her sticky and sweet concert at Chodov. Pardon me for citing Bible but trust me it was very appropriate, especially when it comes to Madonna!

Party All The Time ?

Best mix of Czech Beers!

Best mix of Czech Beers!

There are many clubs and discos in Prague that attract visitors from all over the world! You can find great Draught beer (Czech beer is the best!) in most of this places, but there are other locations too that offer extra premium quality beer for real gourmands! The best part is that Beer is so cheap in Prague that it costs less than a water! My morning usually starts with some canned beer, even before I open my eyes than we have some beer for breakfast and some more for lunch and dinner and supper and lots and lots of beer all night! So much that you can hardly breath! I am so lucky I don’t live in Prague. That would make me a supper chubby and obese man! Surprisingly Czech people in general are quite fit and in good shape!

Dancing - Mix of Czech and Georgian

Dancing - Mix of Czech and Georgian

I also recommend going to places where they offer unlimited food and show program for a fixed price. It’s a great way to spend unforgettable night in a company of your friends and international audience who all have fun, dance, eat and drink!

Beautiful Czech dancers perform all kinds of dancing, including a show with fire and swords, belly dancing and time to time they invite you to dance with them! I am a no good dancer when it comes to folk and traditional dances but I gave it a try! We’ve mixed a Czech and Georgian national dances and made a pretty impressive act! The girl definitely didn’t expect anything like that!

Hotels

You will love this part! Unlike the rest of the good Europe (what I know from experience there’s also a bad Europe), Prague is extremely cheap when it comes to accommodation! centrally located 3 star hotel is all you ever gonna need for a perfect holidays. You could afford 5 stars as well, but save that extra money for something better. You will probably need something from 10 to 20 euros per person per night for a hotel stay and that includes breakfast!

Shopping

Shopping in Prague

Shopping in Prague

Just like the rest of the Europe you can find many franchised shops and stores all over Prague! One of the biggest and best shopping center is Palladium! It is not only a shopping gallery with the widest offer in the center of Prague but also a building with unique architecture combining historical with modern. Five floors of shops, restaurants and fun. PALLADIUM is a place for exciting experiences 24 hours a day!

* 180 shops
* 20 restaurants, bars and cafés
* the biggest underground parking in Prague 1 with
capacity of 900 places
* 19 500 sqm offices

Right on the opposite side of Palladium there is another shopping center – Kotva. According to their website it rates among the most frequented department stores in the entire Czech Republic. Perfect combination of traditional Czech shopping with services of a modern shopping center create a unique shopping and entertainment atmosphere. All inside a building with an extraordinary architecture in the very center of Prague.

Besides those two big shopping centers there are thousands of other medium and small shops that sell everything from Czech souvenirs to Bohemian glass and Garnet Jewelry! Tourist hot spots tend to be a bit more expensive so before buying something just look around other places too.

Sad part

It’s the time when you have to part! When packing make sure that you don’t forget anything in your hotel room.

Duty free

Duty free

Usually you will have to make a check-out by the noon (12:00). Don’t wary about the baggage though, you can leave it in the hotel enjoy the last day in Prague!
At the airport you can enjoy a duty free shopping (I call it Duty Added shopping because prices are always higher there:)) and get ready for the boarding!

Tip! – Many stores in Prague offer Tax Free shopping. It means that all the time you spend money on shopping, you will get a refund for everything once you get to the airport! When doing a refund you will be asked about in which currency you would like to get a refund. Insist on Czech kronas, because if you ask for Euros or US Dollars your money will be converted with the worst currency exchange rate ever! You can make a good use of the refunded Czech kronas in the Duty free shops!

And it’s time to board the plain! Fasten your seat belts, Goodbye Prague and hope to see you again soon!





Preferred Airlines: CSA!

20 04 2010

CSA in the Sky

There are just too many reasons to love Czech Republic and one of them is certainly České Aerolinii!
Over the time CSA has become my preferred Airline and here is why:

1. First and most important – Transit flights through Prague are always convenient, because of the central European location. The rest of the European destinations are a glimpse away and usually take no longer than 90 minutes.

In case you have few hours in your transit don’t just wait in the (Ruzyne) Airport, but get out in the city. It is recommended if you have more than 6 hours of waiting time and you know Prague well. I know Prague just as well as my hometown and it’s no problem for me to get out to the downtown in few minutes and return. Just buy the ticket at the Bus stop and get to Dejvická metro station. That is a final station of the bus number 119 from Ruzyne Airport. Same ticked is valid for your metro trip. In 3-4 stops you are in the downtown and most of the touristic attractions are a walking distance away.

I usually take advantage and don’t miss an opportunity to drink some draught beer brewed locally in Prague. If you share the same passion about Czech beer you must do the same! Czech Gambrinus is also served on board (na palubách – as the say in CZ)free of charge on Czech Airlines. So that’s another good reason to fly with CSA.

Metals Servings instead of Plastic

2. Food on board is far better than on most of other Airlines and very delicious. Unlike many other carriers you are not limited to just one type of drink and you can have juice, coffee, tea and mineral water to your hearts desire. There is a limit on a single can of Beer, but you can buy more if you wish.

It’s also very nice that instead of plastic spoons, forks and knives you get much better quality metal servings that actually cut and doesn’t break when pushed a bit hard.

I must mention one situation when my friend traveled with Airzena (Airlines in Georgia) he was shocked to know that there was no juice on board. When he asked what was the reason for that, he was told that “global economic crisis” was to blame. I mean common! How expensive is it to buy few litters of fruit juice for the poor passengers who have paid hundreds of US dollars for their flights. This will never happen on CSA and thank God!

3. “Chtěl byste kávu, pivo nebo džus?” – Yeahhh! beautiful Czech FA’s. They are welcoming, attentive and take a very good care of the passengers. They are also very polite and ready to make your flight as comfortable as possible! So “Díky jim za to!” and don’t forget to say: “Děkujeme a nashledanou!” when saying good-bye!

Me sleeping in CSA

4. Frequent flier program – the more you fly there are more benefits for you. And if you’ll fly as often as I you will also become “Vážený pane” (Important Person) with a silver card and many benefits. The best of all 42 Kg luggage limit, fast track, business class check-in!

5. Safety! The most important factor of all! I really feel safe and calm when I fly with CSA because I know that their fleet meets all the quality standards and they have a very professional crew!

There are many more less important reasons why CSA has become my preferred Airlines, but i will not bore you with more details.
Fly once and you’ll stick with it for good!





My Top 5 Destinations: 3 – Germany

16 04 2010

And here we go again counting down to my top 5 destinations. Who’s gonna be on the first place? I am sure many of you already have guessed, but I will not reveal the top secret yet! I will only say that Baltic countries did not make it so far in my list… neither did Italy, even though I loved Firenze very much and I haven’t been to Venice yet, Rome was quite nice but it was no love at first sight. Probably I should give it a second chance.

So as you already have noticed from the headline Germany has made it to the 3rd place in my list. I’ve only been to Hanover and Berlin so as yet but I am really impressed with how orderly everything is. I really recommend going to Berlin. First of all it has many historic sights. It is very vibrant and live. It’s also great for shopping with very affordable prices on everything. German people are very nice too.

Go to Alexanderplatz – that is heart of Berlin and take a tour on a famous TV tower. The view from the top is splendid! Once you get there don’t skip the rotating restaurant and try something National. This will be a truly unforgettable moment of your life. The Fernsehturm – German television tower is a part of the World Federation of Great Towers (WFGT), the tower was constructed between 1965 and 1969 by the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) administration who intended it as a symbol of Berlin, which it remains today, as it is easily visible throughout the central and some suburban districts of Berlin.

The “Pope’s Revenge”

When the sun shines on the Fernsehturm’s tiled stainless steel dome, the reflection usually appears in the form of a cross. This effect was neither predicted nor desired by the planners. As a jibe against the atheist foundations of the Communist government, and the ongoing suppression of church institutions in East Germany, Berliners immediately named the luminous cross Rache des Papstes, or “Pope’s Revenge”. For the same reasons, the structure was also called “St. Walter” (from Walter Ulbricht).

U.S. President Ronald Reagan mentioned this phenomenon in his “Tear down this wall” speech on 12 June 1987:

Years ago, before the East Germans began rebuilding their churches, they erected a secular structure: the television tower at Alexanderplatz. Virtually ever since, the authorities have been working to correct what they view as the tower’s one major flaw: treating the glass sphere at the top with paints and chemicals of every kind. Yet even today when the sun strikes that sphere, that sphere that towers over all Berlin, the light makes the sign of the cross. There in Berlin, like the city itself, symbols of love, symbols of worship, cannot be suppressed.

Stakes, Pork Butts and Beer!

Germany is world known for its high quality meat/pork products and beer! Germany is also know by the fact that this is the place where I began to drink Beer and became ovo-lacto-veg shortly after. But for those of you who still eat meat – you’ll find that Berlin is a real paradise. Unlike Paris, where you can hardly find a good place to eat, Berlin is crowed with bars, pubs and restaurants that you can’t skip. German people know how to cook and they’ve got a real good taste too. Pork, beef, and poultry are the main varieties of meat consumed in Germany, with pork being the most popular. Meat is usually pot-roasted; pan-fried dishes also exist, but these recipes usually originate from France. Throughout Germany, meat is very often eaten as sausages. There are more than 1500 different types of sausage in Germany.

When it comes to fish – Trout is the most common freshwater fish on the German menu; pike, carp, and European perch also are listed frequently. Seafood traditionally was restricted to the northern coastal areas, except for pickled herring, often served as Rollmops (a pickled herring fillet rolled into a cylindrical shape around a piece of pickled gherkin or onion). Today many sea fish, like fresh herring, tuna, mackerel, salmon and sardines are well established throughout the country. Prior to the industrial revolution and the ensuing pollution of the rivers, salmon were common in the rivers of Rhine, Elbe, and Oder.

And finally – Vegetables for me. They are often used in stews or vegetable soups, but are also served as a side dish. Carrots, turnips, spinach, peas, beans, broccoli and many types of cabbage are very common. Fried onions are a common addition to many meat dishes throughout the country. Asparagus, especially white asparagus known in English as spargel (the German name for asparagus), is a common side dish or may be prepared as a main dish. Restaurants will sometimes devote an entire menu to nothing but white asparagus when it is in season.

Accommodation Unlike many Nordic countries and France where crappy *** hotels cost a fortune, Berlin is a very affordable city for the budget travelers. You can find very decent hotels and B&B’s for very reasonable rates starting from 20 Euros per person. At the moment I am just about to cancel my Swedish tour because of the unreasonably stupid prices in hotels. So this is one of the very important factors in tourism development. Another paradox is the rates for Georgian hotels in Tbilisi. Why do we have higher prices than Europe and our hotels and services suck like Russia? So if you are heading to Berlin you’ll get accommodated pretty well. But… The Country that is still ahead in my top 5 list has even better hotels and even better beer. In fact, I’ve been living in a ***** hotel and spent exactly the same amount of money as I did in Paris, living in a match box size tiny *** hotel.





My Top 5 Destinations: 4 – Belgium

12 04 2010

Belgian Waffels and Choco Ice-cream

Two things that come to your mind about Belgium are Waffles and Chocolates. Actually I got so fed up with chocolates that I got choco-sick. I am not kidding – there are fountains of chocolates, chocolate bars, chocolate candies, ice-creams, pralines. The long story short – Belgium is SWEEEEET! My favorite and most popular is Leonidas chocolates. I’m sorry I didn’t take any photos in there (or I did? have to do a little search).

Besides sweets and candies Belgium is also about the history and beautiful architecture, nice people and amazing landscapes! Best way to indulge the whole of Brussels is to take a hop on/off bus tours. It’s is a very convenient way to get the most of the city if you are short on time. you MUST go to see Atomium and Mini Europe (They are close to each other and easily reachable by hop on/off buses).

The Atomium is a monument built for Expo ’58, the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair. Designed by André Waterkeyn, it is 102-metres tall, with nine steel spheres connected so that the whole forms the shape of a unit cell of an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times.

Atomium

Tubes which connect the spheres along the 12 edges of the cube and all eight vertices to the centre enclose escalators connecting the spheres which contain exhibit halls and other public spaces. The top sphere provides a panoramic view of Brussels. Each sphere is 18 metres in diameter. Three spheres are currently (2008) closed to visitors, others are easily reachable with escalator. The vertical vertex contains a lift which was considered very fast and advanced at the time of building (the speed is 5 m/s).

One of the original ideas for Expo ’58 was to build an upside-down version of the Eiffel tower; however, Waterkeyn felt that an atomic structure would be more symbolic of the era. The monument was originally planned to remain standing only six months. However, it soon became a symbol not only of the World’s Fair, but of modern architecture and Brussels. The monument stayed the same for almost 50 years.

Mini-Europe is a park located in Bruparck at the foot of the Atomium in Brussels, Belgium. Mini-Europe has the reproductions of the most attractive monuments in the European Union on show, at a scale of 1:25. Roughly 80 cities and 350 buildings are represented. The park is renowned for the quality of its models, some of which cost as much as €350,000 to make (the Brussels Grand-Place). The park contains numerous live action models (train, mills, eruption of Mount Vesuvius, Airbus, cable cars, etc. A guide gives the details on all the monuments. At the end of the visit, the “Spirit of Europe” exhibition gives an interactive overview of the European Union in the form of multimedia games. The park is built on an area of 24,000 m². The initial investment was of €10 million in 1989, on its inauguration by Prince Philip of Belgium.

Grotte Markt, Brussels

But the heart of Brussels is certainly the beautiful Grote Markt – or The Grand Place in English – the central square of Brussels. It is surrounded by guildhalls, the city’s Town Hall, and the Breadhouse (Broodhuis). The square is the most important tourist destination and most memorable landmark in Brussels, along with the Atomium and Manneken Pis. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Every two years in August, an enormous “flower carpet” is set up in the Grand Place for a few days. A million colorful begonias are set up in patterns, and the display covers a full 24 by 77 meters for area total of 1,800 square meters. The first flower carpet was made in 1971, and due to its popularity, the tradition continued, with the flower carpet attracting a large number of tourists.

Now, if you love shopping and I know we all do, here is a useful information about Brussels. No matter how low is my budget I can’t escape the temptation to do a little shopping. I am sure you feel the same. So go to City-2 shopping center. It is a huge place where you will find lots of brand names there. From low cost outlets to Haute couture. I have spend about three days there and could not go to all departments. So if you decide to go there be very specific about what you wish to buy and which departments you’d like to see most.

Don’t just limit yourself with City-2, because there are thousand of other interesting shops there that offer all kinds of souvenirs, hand-made merchandise and so on. There is one little shop that sells hand made honey soaps. I bought few and I must say never in my life have I felt so great in my bathroom.

If you have a little more time to explore more of Belgium don’t hesitate to visit other very beautiful locations like Leuven, Antwerp and Brugge. You will be truly amazed by the unique and beautiful architecture and breathtaking scenes.

and finally … Do Visit Belgium! There are no words to describe it!





Latvia turned out to be a real crap!

26 03 2010

I’ve been meaning to write about this for ages now, but for some reasons I’ve been dragging my self. First of all I didn’t want to hurt our fellow country about the negative review. We’ve always had some very warm feelings towards each-other and we’ve been there fighting for freedom from the claws of Russia. And you also know how positive I’ve been before the trip. But Latvia did not justify my expectations and it turned out to be a real crap!

Well, it was a bad start from the very beginning – Latvian Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia was such a hole that only Greek Embassy would compete with it in top 10 dork embassies world wide:P They’ve been incompetent, rude and simply very under qualified. I even had to write a (actually few) letter (s) of complaints to Gundega Riekstiņa, Head of the Schengen Division of the Consular Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Latvia and accept their apologies. The worst was still ahead …

Flooded streets, ruined roads, mud and garbage everywhere and lots of unhappy people who complained about their economic state and the government. I am kind of wandering why is this country an EU member state in the first place? Shouldn’t there be some standards that would qualify EU countries? Photos down here speak for themselves:

As you see it was also very wet and cold. So once I was done visiting all the sightseeings including down town and old town (that barely took me couple of hours) I went for a lunch and came across a wonderful cafe “Salt and pepper” – Which, I believe was the only good thing about Riga. The food was Ka-Delicious. And the staff – Even Better! Especially lovely Oksana!

So down to some quick conclusions now and probably some travel tips as well – Considering a few day trip to Latvia is a crappy idea right from the beginning. If you still crave to visit this country just give it a one day try. Go to “Salt and Pepper” – You will be pleasantly amazed by their welcome and hospitality! Latvian people are simply amazing and I strongly believe that they deserve a much better country!