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Monthly Archives: April 2017

5 Berlin Museums

Berlin is big on museums, with hundreds dotted around the city. The city’s turbulent history is the focus of some of them, while others cover topics from around the world. There’s enough for weeks museum exploration, but when you are short of time go be sure to choose one (or more) of these.

1. Pergamon Museum

The Pergamon is one of the five museums that make up Museum Island, and is the most visited museum in Germany. It has relics and artefacts from around the ancient world, including parts of ancient cities, dug up and brought over to Berlin. The Pergamon Altar, which gives the museum its name, is probably the most famous artefact on show – an enormous 2,200-year old stone altar, with a detailed frieze depicting a battle between giants and gods. The Ishtar Gate from ancient Babylon is also fascinating to see, as are the Mshatta Facade from today’s Jordan. The Pergamon also houses the Islamic Art Museum, as well as many smaller collections of ancient artefacts.

Entry: 12 euro (18 euro gets you in to all the museums on Museum Island). Free for children under 18. 10am – 6pm, closed on Mondays. Included with Berlin Pass.

2. Topography of Terror

Germany is fairly open about confronting its difficult past, and the Topography of Terror Museum, housed in a former Gestapo HQ, tries to put that past into words and exhibitions. The museum covers the period from the rise of the Nazi party in 1933, to the end of World War II and the division of Berlin. The exhibitions combine personal stories with Nazi propaganda and descriptions of their crimes. The museum also holds the longest remaining part of the Berlin Wall, and describes life in the city during that time. The museum isn’t pleasant, and isn’t meant to be: it shows the darkest parts of Berlin’s history, so that they won’t be forgotten.

Entry: The museum is free, and open from 10am to 10pm.

3. Jewish Museum

Berlin’s Jewish Museum tells the story of 2,000 years of Jewish life in Germany. It focuses on the complex relationship between Jews and Germans over the centuries. The extensive exhibitions describe the pogroms, discrimination and expulsions, as well as Jewish involvement in the wider community and the German-Jewish Enlightenment movement, which started in Berlin and left its mark on Judaism ever since. The museum’s jagged modernist design gives a sense of discord and disorientation, with three underground tunnels, or ‘axes’, guiding visitors through different exhibitions, and an inaccessible void in between them. Menashe Kaddishman’s installation, ‘Falling Leaves’, is dedicated to all victims of war and violence.

Entry: 7 Euro. 10am – 8pm (until 10pm on Monday). Included with Berlin Pass.

4. DDR Museum

We often picture the Berlin Wall from the west, with the iconic images of Western leaders and artists speaking out against it, and its eventual fall in 1989. The DDR Museum is an interactive museum dedicated to recreating life in communist East Germany. For local children and visitors from the West, it’s a fascinating insight into the day-to-day life in East Berlin: queuing for food, spying on neighbors, prisoner interrogations and communist propaganda. A visit to the museum is a nice peek into the past, and raises as many questions as it answers.

Entry: 6 Euro. Daily, 10am – 8pm. Insider Tip: Check in to DDR Museum on Foursquare just before you enter and show them you checked in to get 30% off (pay €4 instead of €6)! Follow The Travel Magazine on Foursquare for more tips. Offer valid at time of publishing.

5. Bauhaus Archives

Architecture museums aren’t always on ‘top 5’ lists, but the Bauhaus movement has a unique story, which includes and goes beyond its effect on today’s architecture designs around the world. The archives chronicle the development of the movement, led by Walter Gropius, through the 1920s and 1930s, including the expulsion of several Jewish architects by the Nazis, and their influence on modernist design in every country they found refuge in. The museum shows Bauhaus’s attempt to be a ‘total’ artistic philosophy, encompassing everything from industrial design to typography. Currently, the museum’s collection is much larger than the exhibition space, and only 35% of the collection is on display. Nonetheless, a visit to the museum is informative and enjoyable.

Entry: 6-7 Euro. Wednesday to Monday 10am – 5pm, closed on Tuesday. Included with Berlin Pass.

The Cyclades Islands in Greece

1. Santorini

Some say the most beguiling and popular island of this Aegean archipelago is Santorini. Everyone will have seen that iconic image — you know, the one with the cliff-top blue-domed church standing out amid shimmering white architecture that looks dazzling against the blue skies and seas.

Cruise ships stop there, weddings take place there just for the scenic photography and holiday makers clamber over the ramparts of the 13th century castle in an almost cult-like fashion, to be sure of the best view of the sunset.

There are beaches, a pebbly one at Kamari and a black sand ones at Perissa and Karterados and these are overlooked by jagged cliffs and a brilliant light that seems peculiar to the cyclades — it can be mesmerising.

The hillside towns of Fira and Oia are quaint with sometimes steep steps and knotted alleyways and make for idyllic afternoon exploration. And in the evenings the roof terraces of restaurants are light and alive with diners enjoying libations and alfresco dinner in the warm night air.

This island is all about relaxing sophistication. Just ask Angelina Jolie did. She holed up here for a month after filming her second Tomb Raider film.

2. Mykonos

Bare hills, sandy beaches and a glitzy vibe makes up this 86 square kilometre island. There are barely 10,000 locals yet the island is set upon by tens of thousands of tourists looking to party. Nightclubs are two a penny, there are several pubs and shops stay open throughout the night.

This is a fun island and, naturally, its most famous beach, Paradise Beach, has its share of nightclubs, a campsite, and the odd restaurant. Nearby is Super Parade, a gay nudist beach which may not be to everyone’s taste. For a little peace and quiet, head to Agia Ana, though it may seem comparatively undeveloped.

Its main town, Hóra, is full of fashion shops but as tempting as it is to go shopping, stay away between 10am and 5pm when the cruise ships stop by.

3. Naxos

This is the largest of the Greek Islands in the Aegean Sea and when you arrive by boat you will be met with its most famous archaelogical site — the Portara, the doorway to the ancient temple of Apollo built in 522 BC. The island is home to the highest mountain in the Cyclades — Mount Zeus — is the source of much mythology. They say that this was the nuptial isle of the Dionysus, the God of wine. That’s why there is a sanctuary dedicated to him. It’s coastline is a doily of sensational beaches, some secluded. Mikri and Vila in the west are beloved by windsurfers.

Inland its incredibly mountainous and villages seem to appear out of the fertile valleys and there are plenty of fields and olive groves. Its harbour is in the capital where several alleys lead steeply to the citadel, a landmark that can be seen for miles and elsewhere there are old churches, monasteries and Venetian castles and homes.

4. Paros

Paros, a ferry hub and a beautiful Venetian port, is considered as one of the most beautiful islands defined by its beaches and quaint villages. Parikia is the island’s main town and port. Yet its most popular town is Naoussa. It was once an old fishing village but who would know? Today it is a popular cosmopolitan holiday destination. For a little culture visit the blue domed Byzantine Museum.

5. Ios

There may be 365 churches on this island but for young people this is a party island. It offers an intense nightlife and beach parties that start early and last throughout the night on Mylopotas beach are not unusual. This kilometre stretch of beach is peppered with bars and restaurants and myriad of water sports but there are more sedate options at Valmas beach or Kolitsani beach.

The island also has the tranquil hillside village of Chora, probably the most picturesque in all the Cyclades. The views from its highest point are simply breathtaking.

Incidentally, they say that Homer’s mother was from Ios, and he himself was buried there.

6. Delos

You cannot stay the night on Delos but you should visit. This world heritage site, located in the centre of the archipelago, is the birth place of Apollo and Artemis and in ancient times was the religious centre for the whole of Greece. The remarkable monuments, such as the Minoan Fountain and Temple of the Delians, and the impressive mosaics are certainly worthy of the ferry ride.

Explore Peru On a Budget

For young whippersnappers and seasoned voyagers alike, Peru is fast becoming one of the most popular travel destinations in South America. Its success is reflected in the ever-increasing influx of tourists (growing annually at a rate of 25 per cent since 2008), eager to sample the delicious melting pot of different cultures, cuisine, landscapes, and archaeology.

Peru is most famous for its ancient civilisations, in particular the Inca. Few tourists would consider a trip to Cusco without wishing to visit the formidable Machu Picchu. There is also the inevitable flight over the Nasca Lines and even perhaps a voyage through the Amazon Rainforest.

However, these trips are usually planned well in advance, as tours can be booked from the comfort of your own home or through a travel agent. They may be a little costly, but are certainly worth spending on if you can afford it. Flights to Peru can also be painfully steep, particularly if you are coming from Europe.

With this in mind, by the time tours have been booked and flights paid for, travel budgets are often on the lower end of the scale. Fortunately, Peru is not an expensive country in terms of accommodation, coach travel, and for the most part, activities. Don’t fall into the trap of booking everything in advance online, as you will end up spending more than necessary. With just a little planning and a keen eye, there are some fantastic things to do and see in Peru that won’t burn a hole in your pocket.

To help give you some inspiration, we present eight of our favourite budget activities in Peru:

Barter at the markets in Lima

“Love at first sight” is not a phrase often associated with the capital city of Lima. The weather is often drab and the air polluted, making this concrete jungle seem rather grey. However, the city is a stopover for international flights, so it is likely you will have to spend some time here. Fortunately, there is plenty of colour to be found at the Inca Market in Miraflores, where you can do a spot of souvenir shopping and make the most of Peru’s bartering-culture.

Bartering in the markets can be quite the challenge, and there are few things more rewarding than striking a good deal. On top of this, it’s a great excuse to start up a rapport with some of the locals. There is always a temptation just to socialise with fellow hostel-goers, which is fine, but you will probably find your experience of Peru is much-enriched if you get to know some of the people who actually live there.

Have a giggle at the Larco Museum

Another popular attraction in Lima is the Larco Museum, which has an absolutely fabulous collection of pre-Columbian art. Located in the Pueblo Libre District of the city, the museum showcases over 4,000 years of Peruvian history. The collection is both vast and varied, with cases and cases of ceramic figurines partaking in huge range of ritual and domestic activities. There is even a ceramic vessel depicting a man picking his nose!

The most popular aspect of the museum is the gallery of Moche erotic art. The Moche produced some of the finest examples of pre-Columbian pottery, and also the sauciest. Phallus-shaped vessels, masturbating skeletons, and some truly unabashed sexual acts are all depicted in impressive detail. I challenge anyone to walk through the exhibition with the straight face.

Go horse riding in Arequipa

Arequipa, also known as the ‘White City’ is located in the southern region of Peru, and is a popular destination for travellers due to its vibrant culture and stunning countryside. Most of the hostels advertise horse riding trips on the outskirts of the city, providing the perfect excuse to partake in a little budget adventure.

Trips last a couple of hours, and previous experience with horses is not required. You will get the chance to ride across the stunning countryside in full view of Mount Misti, a volcano with a height of almost 20,000 feet. Paths tend to be a little off the beaten track, thus providing a sense of adventure while avoiding any real danger.

Chill out with the condors at Colca Canyon

If you are planning a visit to Arequipa, consider sparing an extra day to book a trip to the nearby(ish) Colca Canyon. The colourful Andean valley is more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, and boasts some of the most spectacular views in Southern Peru. It is also home to the magnificent Andean Condors, which are often sighted at close range from the canyon walls.

Morning trips to Colca Canyon can be booked from most hostels in Arequipa. You will have to get up very early in the morning to make the bus journey of 100 miles or to the canyon, but it will all be worth it when you turn up in virtual solitude to watch the condors glide through the air before your eyes. Once you have taken in some of the splendid views, you will be taken to on of the nearby villages where you can purchase souvenirs or have your picture taken hugging a llama. As silly as it sounds, it’s a rather fun way to top off the morning.

Go to Lake Titicaca for the ‘Disney’ experience

Lake Titicaca is on the border between Peru and Bolivia. By volume of water, it is the largest lake in South America, and is quite a sight to behold: a panorama of perfectly calm, deep blue water dotted with islands of all shapes and sizes. Among these are the Uros, a group of 44 artificial islands made of floating reeds. The reeds are used by the islands’ communities in everything from building houses and boats to cookery.

Several of the Uros are open to the public, and for a small fee – around 20 soles (£5/$8/€6) you can book a half-day tour from Puno that includes a 45-minute boat trip to the Uros, a tour through several of the islands, and an opportunity to interact with the communities who live there.

The experience is more of insight into times gone by than of the current way of life here: the majority of the Uros tribe have moved to the mainland in order to gain better access to schools and hospitals. Those who remain on the islands wear the traditional bright outfits during the day to please the tourists.

That being said, the native dress is visually stunning, and you may even be encouraged to don the traditional garb yourself for a fun photo or two. You can also pay extra for a trip on the traditional reed boats, which I thoroughly recommend. If you get the opportunity, sit down for a good old chat with community, as you will get a much more interesting and informative insight into their current way of life than you would through a camera lens.

Play football at high altitude in Cusco

Cusco is most famous for its historical attractions and spectacular architecture. However, it’s also a popular city for hostel-goers to let their hair down and party. There is a multitude of clubs, and cocktails can be purchased at a very low cost. Combine alcohol with high altitude, and a couple of drinks on a night out can leave you with quite a hangover.

If this is the case, force yourself out of bed and sign up for a morning of football at high altitude. Again, most of the hostels will organise daily activities such as this to keep you amused on your trip. A game of football provides the opportunity to get out of the hustle and bustle of the centre of Cusco and try something a bit different.

Be warned, even the most athletic individuals can massively under-perform at high-altitude. A couple of minutes running about will probably leave you panting on the ground. On the plus side, you will return to your hostel feeling fit, refreshed, and ready to explore the city.

Spend the day working on an Inca farm

If playing football is not your cup of tea, but you still want to get physical outdoors, sign up to spend a day working on an Inca farm on the outskirts of Cusco. You will spend the morning being taught about the crops that grow in the region, traditional forms of farming, and some of the medicinal qualities of local plants and herbs.

With hoe in hand, you will then be put to work turning the earth and making it fertile for the crops. After you have really broken a sweat, the farmer on hand serves up a delicious lunch on the edge of the field. Again this is a great opportunity to get a real insight into local traditions and culture, away from the tourist traps located in the centre of the city.

Eat Ceviche

Peru is a haven for lovers of international cuisine, offering a vast array of mouth-watering dishes including lomo saltado, anticuchos, and tender alpaca steak. One of the most popular dishes in Peru is ceviche: raw fish marinated in citrus juice and spiced with chilli, accompanied by a selection of side dishes including sweet potato, plantain, and avocado.

If you cannot bring yourself to try some of the more imaginative Peruvian delicacies (guinea pig, or cui, immediately comes to mind), at least sample a plate of ceviche, as the unique texture and flavours of this dish are truly a match made in heaven. Most restaurants in Lima will serve up ceviche for a moderate price, but if you head to the coastal areas in Northern Peru, you are sure to find restaurants serving it a fraction of the price.

Abergavenny Food Festival South Wales

My three year old son is in the back of the car patting his tummy and licking his lips and saying “Abergavenny, Abergavenny, Abergavenny” over and over again. He can he possibly remember our previous visit to this mecca of epicurean delights? He asks when we will be having lunch. “I want gnocchi” he demands.

Twelve months ago we were Food Festival virgins – which means we didn’t realise that trying to steer a buggy full of sleepy toddler through the impossibly crowded streets of this little town on a Saturday – let alone through the quirkily-decorated market hall which was packed to the gills with fellow foodies – was a pointless task. We ended up with one of us waiting outside in the mizzle with a cranky child while the other one waited for a gap in the throng before shimmying from stall to stall, from a dazzling display of sausages to handmade chocolates, to fruit leather and to the most delicious pasta from the makers who had travelled from Italy.

We wished we’d left the buggy in the car (parked on the other side of town as almost all the town centre car parks are commandeered for the duration of the festival) and brought a sling or a baby backpack to carry our little gourmet.

The Sunday was much better. We concentrated on the slightly less crowded family-focused events taking place a short walk away in the grounds of Abergavenny Castle.

Here there was space to run around – and grassy slopes and steps to climb up and down – not to mention live music and a generally more relaxed atmosphere. We gorged at the Persian grill and danced to the bands before I slipped away on my own to catch the highlight of the weekend – an audience with four of the finest chefs in the Principality, including my secret crush, Shaun Hill, whose cooking at the nearby The Walnut Tree Inn (which was awarded a Michelin star in 2010) had left us all – including Charlie who declared that the truffle tagliatelle was ‘very yummy’ – giddy with delight.

Just a few miles away from The Walnut Tree, the town of Abergavenny is home to several iconic foodie destinations including the acclaimed butcher HJ Edwards which is just a few steps away from the Angel Hotel where many of the talks and cookery demonstrations take place – and which has just won a Tea Guild award for its Afternoon Tea.

To the north of the town you’ll find the village of Crickhowell and to the south east, off the road to the wonderfully-named village of Llanvihangel Gobion, is another place well worth stopping off at – the hotel and restaurant at Llansantffraed Court owned and run by Mike Morgan who was one of the founders of the original food festival.

A short drive up an unpaved turnoff brings visitors to the fine 18th century building. There’s plenty of parking (the gravel underfoot can make the going challenging for anyone with mobility issues so best to drop them off at the entrance) and everywhere you look, you’ll see rolling countryside. We were blessed with a fine, sunny day and chose to have lunch in the shade on the delightful rear terrace while enjoying views down to the pond fountain and beyond to rolling hills while sharing a plate of home-cured venison (from nearby Blwch ) bresaola with soft, creamy mozzarella and a couple of hearty open sandwiches.

While Llansantffraed also has several well-appointed rooms, for our second visit to the area – this time travelling with Granny Mistryguest who needs a specially adapted room – we were staying at the Celtic Manor Resort, just outside Newport, about a 40 minute drive from Abergavenny.

Celtic Manor – one of the supporters of this year’s food festival – is perhaps best known for hosting last year’s Ryder Cup – one of the biggest golf tournaments in the world. The resort operates on a grand scale – there are three gold courses – and joy of joys, the bar stocks Thomas Watkins. But this isn’t any old bar for the Resort has cannily joined up with Michelin-starred chef James Sommerin of the Crown at Whitebrook to open an outpost – The Crown at Celtic Manor.

Sadly for Charlie, diners under 13 are not permitted – so he enjoys the hotel babysitting service (all staff work at the hotel’s childcare facility) and we enjoy a very pleasant child free dining experience.

Cooking at the Crown is overseen by Sommerin but the kitchen is run by head chef Tim McDougall who trained with Sommerin at the original Crown. There are a few nods to molecular cuisine (a smattering of foams and a consommé with a tiny square of tarragon jelly nestling at the bottom of the shot glass) but overall the food is precise rather than prissy.

The joy of staying somewhere like Celtic Manor when wrangling three generations is that there is something for everyone under one roof. While too young for the fine dining (or to venture out on the famous 2010 course), Charlie did have a shot at adventure golf and if the tennis courts had been open he’d have quite liked a go at that too. He was more than happy with the swimming pool which helpfully had lots of gear for kids – floats, armbands and for tiny ones, ‘floatie cushions’ that allow a child to float in an upright position – under parental supervision of course.

There are clearly designated swim times for children in the main pool – and they suited us – but if he’d been even keener we would have been able to use the smaller pool at Dylans – a health club a short walk or golf buggy ride away.

Granny was thrilled to find a sun-drenched terrace where she could read and which was also within a short wheel of the Olive Tree – the main restaurant where, the following evening, we settled for a light snack having sampled the lunch menu at the Newbridge on Usk, the newly refurbished gastro-pub which joined the Celtic Manor stable a few months ago.

There’s a very relaxed atmosphere at this restaurant with (very nice) rooms, including some at ground level, which will be launching its new menu at the Food Festival. Chef includes as much local produce as possible (my pouting was landed caught in Swansea Bay) and almost every table commands a decent view. Ours watched over a bend in the Usk which is a prime to watch for leaping salmon apparently. Not surprisingly the Newbridge offers special fishing breaks and the kitchen will even cook your catch to your specification if you bring it back during the catch and keep season.

There’s so much to see in this part of south Wales that a visit in any season (there is also a Christmas Food Festival in Abergavenny run by the same organisers in December) will satisfy every taste.