Travel to Germany

Germany is located in central Europe and stretches from the Alps in the south up to the North Sea in the North. It is bordered by Austria and Switzerland in the south; Poland and the Czech Republic in the east; France, Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands in the west; and Denmark in the North.

With some of the largest cities in Europe, Germany offers all travellers a unique experience.

The south of Germany is ideal for the outdoor and adventure type. Within Germany’s border lies a portion of the Alps’ Mountain range; two of Europe’s largest rivers: the Rhine and the Danube; and the scenic Black Forest.

In any of Germany’s cities a relaxing holiday can be enjoyed at any time of the year. Their large cities are ideal for shoppers. Weekly markets are held in all towns and the Christmas markets usually start at the end of November.

The currency of Germany is the Euro, and visitors from outside the EU zone are entitled to a VAT refund on any non-edible goods that are bought in German shops.

The German people are known for their efficiency, and this is reflected right through their transport system. Their rail system is first class and makes travelling from city to city a true pleasure. Most of the large German cities have an underground rail system with a frequent snappy service.

The climate of Germany differs – in the east the summers are very warm and the winter months are very cold. In the north the weather is very cool during the summer and the winters stay mild.

Autumn is the most popular time to travel to Germany. Most German cities hold culture festivals during September and October. If you travel to Germany during the month of October make sure you visit the city of Munich – here you can experience the largest beer festival in the world and sample some of the best beers that are brewed in Germany.

Music festivals are normally held during the summer and autumn months. Special music festivals are held yearly for famous composers. For Beethoven the festival is normally held in Bonn and in the state of Thuringia a festival is normally held for Bach.

Winter holidays are extremely enjoyable in Bavaria, the largest of Germany’s 16 states, where you can enjoy a skiing break in the Alps and the Black Forest.

With over 2000 museums, Germany has a rich culture in art and literature. Eight Germans have won the Nobel Prize for literature. The month of October also holds another large festival – in the second week of October, Frankfurt holds the largest book fair in the world which attracts writers and publishers from all parts of the globe.

So if you are travelling to Germany you have 14 international airports to choose from – where connecting flights can be made to most German cities.

Top 7 Books to Read Before Traveling to Turkey

I like to read several books before each trip to have a better understanding of the culture and the local life of my next destination. Of course there are the travel guides I read before leaving or even before choosing my next destination, but my favourites are fiction novels. I like to read stories that take place in that country or whose authors are from that country.

Below is a great list of non-travel books about Turkey, some from Turkish authors. If you are considering travelling to Turkey soon, create time to read at least few of them, perhaps they will make you realize your dream trip sooner than expected.

1) Yasar Kemal, The Birds Have Also Gone

A short novel from one of Turkey’s internationally recognised and widely read authors who has also been a candidate for the Nobel Prize for Literature. In this book, author tells the story of three boys who are struggling to survive in the constantly changing environment of the big city: Istanbul.

2) John David Tumpane, Scotch and Holy Water

Entertaining book on Turkish people and life in Turkey written by American author who lived in Turkey for 10 years. From the view of a Turkish person you may find the author arrogant and the observations exaggerated but it will surely be helpful to Americans in understanding Turkish thinking. “We arrived in Istanbul via Pan Am after midnight. On the way into the city, all the neon signs looked so strange to me: Tuzcuoglu, Haci Bekir Lokumlari, Koc. I thought, I’ll never be able to learn this language. Then I saw a sign reading Is Bankasi and I was sure the word “bank” was lurking somewhere in there. Since I knew one word of Turkish already, I decided to stay”

3) Orhan Pamuk, Istanbul Memories and the City

The Nobel Prize winner recalls the Istanbul of his youth. Istanbul’s melancholy enriched his childhood and continues to inspire him. “… the melancholy of this dying culture was all around us. Great as the desire to westernise and modernise may have been, the more desperate wish, it seemed, was to be rid of all the bitter memories of the fallen empire: rather as a spurned lover throws away his lost beloved’s clothes, possessions and photographs”

4) Mustafa Ziyalan and Amy Spangler (editors), Istanbul Noir

Comprised of by 16 stories, all original, some of Turkey’s most exciting authors; the result is an underground portrait of the city and of Turkey, told in evocative, often poetic, and powerful language.

5) Louis de Bernières, Birds Without Wings

Birds Without Wings is a novel by Louis de Bernières, telling the tragic love story of Philothei, a Christian girl and Ibrahim her childhood friend and Muslim. The story is set in Eskibahçe, a small fictional village; although fiction, the setting of Eskibahçe is based upon Kayaköy village near Fethiye, the ruins of which still exist today; a beautiful historic romantic novel.

6) Elif Safak, The Flea Palace

Safak is a young Turkish novelist, writer of best-sellers in Turkey, France and Bulgaria. The Flea Palace is a novel about daily routines of the inhabitants of an apartment building in Istanbul named BonBon Palace, miniature representation of the city itself, the city of contrasts and contradictions, the city where East meets West. Here is an extract from The Flea Palace: “Istanbul was under a heavy fog that morning, and as all Istanbulites knew too well, during foggy days even the city herself could not tell what her colour was. However, Agripina Fyodorovna Antipova had always been pampered with great care since birth and had been subsequently led to presume that others were to blame whenever she could not obtain anything she desired…”

7) Tales from the Expat Harem: Foreign Women in Modern Turkey

A nonfiction anthology created and edited by Anastasia M. Ashman & Jennifer Eaton Gokmen. The collection includes the life experiences of 32 expatriate women from seven nations and five continents, whose collective experience spans over the past four decades. These diverse women describe religion, culture, conflicts, traditions and customs with the perspective of foreign women living and working in Turkey. They will take you to Istanbul’s narrow streets, to warm homes, and to steamy Hamams. If you are planning to visit Turkey soon this book is a great read to warm your heart to Turkish people.

Santiniketan Travel Guide

Santiniketan is a small town near Bolpur in the Birbhum district of West Bengal, India, approximately 180 kilometres north of Kolkata (formerly Calcutta). It was made famous by Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, whose vision became what is now a university town (Visva-Bharati University) that attracts thousands of visitors each year. Santiniketan is also a tourist attraction because Rabindranath wrote many of his literary classics here, and his house is a place of historical importance.

Santiniketan was previously called Bhubandanga (named after Bhuban Dakat, a local dacoit), and owned by the Tagore family. Rabindranath’s father, Maharshi Debendranath Tagore, found it very peaceful and renamed it Santiniketan, which means abode (niketan) of peace (shanti). It was here that Rabindranath Tagore started Patha Bhavana, the school of his ideals, whose central premise was that learning in a natural environment would be more enjoyable and fruitful. After he received the Nobel Prize(1913), the school was expanded into a university. Many world famous teachers have become associated with it. Indira Gandhi, Satyajit Ray, and Amartya Sen are among its more illustrious students.

TOURIST ATTRACTIONS:
There are several institutions under the Visva Bharati-Patha Bhavan, Uttar Shiksha Sadana, Siksha Bhavan, Vidya Bhavan, Vinay Bhavan, Kala Bhavan, Sangeet Bhavan, and Rabindra Bhavan, China Bhavan, Hindi Bhavan, etc. There is a museum called Vichittra and art gallery by the name of Nandan. Within the Uttarayana complex, there are five abodes of Tagore-Udayana, Konarka, Shamali, Punassha, and Udichi. Besides, Chhatimala, Upasana Mandir, and Santiniketan Bari are some of the oldest sanctums. In the year 1922, Rabindranath started a rural reconstruction center at Sriniketan, 3 km from Santiniketan. Later, some other institutions have come up here-Siksha Satra, Silpa Sadana, Palli Siksha Bhavana, and Santosh Pathshala, etc.

PLACES AROUND SANTINIKETAN:
Just 9 km away from Santiniketan, on the bank of the river Kopai is Kankalitala considered one of the sacred Saktipithas. In the Ballavpur Forest, 4 km away from Santiniketan, is the Deer Park. Nearby is Nonoor famous for its Bakranath Shiva Temple and the sulfurous hot springs. Other places nearby are Tarapith, Lavpur-Fullara, Saintha-Nandesawari, Nalhati, and Massanjore.

FAIRS & FESTIVALS:
Rabindra Janmotsav is celebrated in mid-April to mark the Bengali New Year and as well Tagore’s anniversary. Briksharopan, the festival of planting saplings, and Halakarshan, the festival of plowing the fields, are celebrated on 22nd and 23rd day of Sravana (August). Varshamangal, the festival of rains, is celebrated during August/September. Poush Utsav, a fair held at Santiniketan and Visva Bharati from 7th to 9th Poush (December), is observed to mark its foundation day. Tribal sports, dances, and folk songs, including songs by Bauls-the wandering minstrels of Bengal-are a part of the fair and festivities. Maghotsav is celebrated on the 11th of Magha (January) to mark the anniversary of Brahmo Samaj. Vasanta Utsav is held to mark Holi. The students dance and sing their ways through Amrakunja, followed by open-air variety programs.

HOW TO REACH:

BY ROAD – Regular buses ply regularly on the Calcutta-Santiniketan route covering a distance of 211 km.

BY RAIL – The nearest railway station to Santiniketan is Bolpur, which is connected to Calcutta. From Bolpur, one can simply take a cycle rickshaw to cover the 2 km distance to Santiniketan.

BY AIR – The nearest airport is at Calcutta.

WHERE TO STAY:
There are tourist lodges and tourist cottages run by the West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation. Visva Bharati runs a guesthouse. There are youth hostels at Bolpur and Bakeswar. There are also private hotels at Bolpur.