Tag Archives: culture

Wenje, Zhang

An American in Rome

As an American transfer student studying full time in Rome, I’ve had the opportunity to travel all over Europe by myself and with others. With Rome as my home base, there has been a very fun and, at times, challenging transition process. This is the beginning of a series discussing this transition and what other Americans visiting Rome should expect.
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Mike Mantin

Pocket Guide to the Gower Peninsula

The Gower Peninsula is a rural, rugged landscape, shaped around the south coast of Wales. Unsurprisingly

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Allie_Caulfield

German Christmas Markets: Why You Should See Them In 2017 

As we are exactly half-way through the year, it’s time to start thinking about Christmas… right?

The festive season may be long gone but if you’re hoping to make your first Christmas market trip in 2017 then it’s never too early to start searching for good deals and doing some research. I love visiting the markets in Germany and would recommend them to anyone, particularly if, like me, you’ve always loved the idea of the kind of festive holiday you see on traditional Christmas cards.

Growing up in Texas where we were lucky if the temperature even dropped below freezing, let alone received anything close to resembling snow, I used to think that Christmas in New York City was the most magical way to spend the holidays, but then I went to Germany. Don’t get me wrong, New York at Christmas is just how you’d imagine, it’s like something straight out of a film. The city decorates every street corner, the tree in Rockefeller Plaza is mesmerising, and, if you’re lucky, you even get snow to top it all off. Celebrating Christmas in New York City should be added to everyone’s bucket list, but spending the festive season in Germany should definitely be added as well. 
Anthony Quintano

Make sure you visit NYC around the festive season at least once in your life, but for a ‘Christmas card’ experience, head to Germany. (Photographer: Anthony Quintano; Flickr)

  
German Christmas markets have been popping up in the U.S. quite frequently in the past few years, but there’s nothing like experiencing them in Germany itself. The atmosphere is a dreamy mix of warm, cosy drinks and energetic bands of tubas and trombones blasting away. The stalls lining the streets sell anything from Christmas cookies to scarves, hats and gloves, and while many of them seem to sell the same things, you can’t help but scan each and every one. There are what seems to be hundreds of food stands surrounded by upright tables to stand at and sip your mug of GlühweinThe warm, spicy mulled wine is served in a special glass unique to each city which makes a perfect souvenir; and don’t worry if you take it home at the end of the night — with each glass you purchase, a Pfand, or deposit, means you can keep it or just return the glass at the end of the night and get your money back. 
Allie_Caulfield

Have a glass of mulled wine to warm you up as you wander around Nuremberg’s Hauptmarkt. (Photographer: Allie_Caulfield; Flickr)

Christmas markets are a huge thing, but none are as big as the Nürnberger Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg. The market is a huge affair, with thousands of stalls packing the Hauptmarkt (main square) in Nuremberg’s old town. Another important attraction of the Christkindlesmarkt is the Christkind. Every year, hundreds of young women audition to become the Christ child, who opens the market with a prologue. The Christkind, dressed in white robes with long curly, blonde hair, even travels to the U.S. to Philadelphia and Baltimore to open their Christmas markets and meet with children. In Nuremberg, there is even a children’s Christmas night, or Kinderweihnacht, complete with a carousel and a small Ferris wheel.  
 
Even though some of these markets can seem large and intimidating from a distance, inside they are full of a comfortable warmth that makes you want to go back again and again. They’re the perfect place to spend time with friends and family, to meet new people and to celebrate the holidays. After spending the last two winters in Germany and its Christmas markets, I can’t imagine a single Christmas without them.  
Featured image © Allie_Caulfield
 
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Beirut: the Latest Girls’ Holiday Destination

Babes in Beirut

Move over Marbella, Beirut has so much to offer for a weekend with the girls. It’s full to the brim with luxurious cars and beautiful people, so after my recent girls’ holiday, I couldn’t recommend it more. With ample clubs and bars, as well as easily accessible day trips and cultural excursions, the Lebanese capital is bursting with glamour and fun, and still allows you to come back to reality every now and again to immerse yourself in its profound history and culture.

Part of excavations from the ancient town of Byblos. Now housed in the Beirut National Museum. © Georgia Dey

Beirut is a small capital city, with a population of only 4.5 million, therefore, while maintaining the bustling and energetic feel of any major city, it has the added ease of mobility of a smaller place.

Walking through the streets of Beirut you become all too aware of the conflicts in its past. Shadows of the Civil War linger in the form of blown out buildings and others showered with bullet holes. Eerie though it may sound, this adds to the depth of the atmosphere in this now modern, cosmopolitan city.

Furthermore, the remnants of the French colonial rule are visible in the form of beautiful Parisian architecture seen throughout the city, and of course in the language. French is a dominant language in Lebanon, although it is generally the language of the educated middle class; a knowledge of Arabic comes in handy when out and about and chatting with taxi drivers.

Top Tips in Beirut

As a tourist, the easiest way to travel around the city is by taxi. There are two types of taxi found in Beirut. A service taxi acts like a bus and costs 2000 Lebanese pounds per person, while you must haggle a price for a private taxi and it often works out more expensive.

Inside the Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque, Beirut. © Georgia Dey

The official currency of Lebanon is the Lebanese pound. However, due to inflation, £1 sterling is roughly equivalent to 1900LBP, so they have adopted a dual currency system, also accepting the US dollar as legal tender. I would advise that you stick to using the Lebanese pound, as the majority of the time you’ll receive it as change regardless of the currency you paid in, and switching between multiple currencies becomes complicated very quickly.

Make the most of Beirut’s coastal location and take a sunset walk from the Corniche along the coastline until you reach the Pigeon Rocks. The relaxing stroll gives you ample opportunity to unwind, especially if, like me, you spent the previous evening sampling the best of Beirut’s nightlife, and are feeling a little worse for wear. The gentle sea breeze and sound of crashing waves is truly therapeutic.

My number one recommendation for a night out in Beirut is a bar crawl in Mar Mikhael. Renowned for its arty vibes, the area boasts an array of trendy bars. A particular favourite of mine was Lock Stock because of its talented cocktail bartenders who never failed to conjure up gorgeous and delicious cocktails time and again (believe me, I tried a lot of them!)

A Greek Catholic Church, Harrisa. © Georgia Dey

Byblos

An afternoon in Byblos is essential. The oldest continuously inhabited town in the world dating back almost 8000 years, Byblos is a small coastal town with charming cobbled streets and buildings bursting with character. By the modest harbour there’s an abundance of restaurants and cafes with views of the sea and ruins. Given its prestige as a must-see spot in Lebanon, it can feel a little touristy at times but it is nonetheless a remarkable and relaxing destination.

The Jeita Grotto

Having existed for countless years before human discovery, a visit to this cave, full to the brim with impressive stalagmites and stalactites, is a truly awe-inspiring experience. The slow development of the calcium has created the unique underground landscape, untouched by humans until the 1830s. No wildlife inhabit the cave, apart from a few bats that have taken refuge there since its discovery. Sadly, pictures are forbidden inside the Grotto, but that makes this spot even more worthy of a trip.

Harrisa

A sleepy village doubling up as a Christian pilgrimage site, where in close proximity you can visit a modern cathedral, a traditional Greek Catholic church and the statue of the Virgin Mary, “Notre Dame du Liban”. You can also take an exciting cable-car ride up to the town, which is located high on the hilltop. Not one for those with a fear of heights, but it’s worth it for the incredible views of the sea stretching back to Beirut’s harbour.

“Notre Dame du Liban”, Harrisa. © Georgia Dey

I had the most wonderful time in Lebanon and would recommend it to anyone! It has so much to offer — vibrant nightlife, incredible natural landscapes and unbelievably friendly residents, making it a fantastic holiday destination. Unfortunately, due to conflicts nearby in the region, I must highlight the importance of checking your government’s travel information before making any plans.

So when you’re planning your next girls’ — or guys’ — holiday, check out Beirut. You’d be silly not to.

Featured image © Georgia Dey

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Cyprus: Top 5 Places to See

Cyprus has become a popular holiday destination for many British holiday-makers in recent years; the city of Paphos is a favourite for families who want some sun, sea and sand, whilst the town of Ayia Napa is infamous Continue reading

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