Culture aspects of the places visited

Kerala, land of coconuts and curry!

Kerala is located in the West Coast of Southern India. The climate is excellent for growing spices such as cardamon, cloves, cinnamon and peppers.

Cochin (Kochi)
The beautiful beaches of Cochin (Kerala), with graceful coconut trees must have been a welcome sight to weary European sailors. Cochin became a very important trading post settled by the Portuguese. Cochin’s history goes further back. Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Jews and Chinese have all traded in Cochin and along the Malabar Coast. Its natural harbor and trade made Cochin to become the Queen of the Arabian Sea.

Take a houseboat cruise through the calm backwaters of Kerala. The lush greenery is breathtaking.

Or visit Cherai Beach with beautiful coconut groves in Kochi (Cochin), Kerala.

Kerala Food
Seafood is abundant here and many dishes include coconut. Freshly grated coconut has a delicious taste. It is not the same as what we get here in the US in the frozen section. Fresh coconut makes delicious chutneys and coconut oil is used to cook pretty much everything in Kerala.

Try some Kerala Karimeen (local fish) and huge Kerala prawns (shrimp) cooked with local curry leaves and spices. This region of India is a paradise for food lovers. You can find tasty vegetarian and also a variety of delicious meat dishes in Kerala.

Getting here
Now you can fly in style into the green solar powered Cochin International Airport (COK). Cochin International Airport has grown quickly to become the 4th busiest airport in India.

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Christmas in Lalibela Ethiopia

Christmas is celebrated in January in Ethiopia. An exceptional place to celebrate Christmas is in the ancient rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, Ethiopia. This place is also known as the “New Jerusalem”. There are eleven ancient churches clustered together. Pilgrims clad in white come from all over to celebrate Christmas. Eat some wat (thick spicy stew) on a Ethiopian sourdough bread (injeera) which looks similar to Indian dosas.

Getting to Lalibela, Ethiopia
Addis Ababa International Airport (ADD) is the international gateway to Ethiopia. Addis Ababa means “new flower”. Ethiopian Airlines flies into the local airport in Lalibela. Lalibela is situated in the Northern part of Ethiopia in the region of Amhara, South of neighboring Eritrea.

Attractions
If you have time visit ancient Aksum, Gondar (Camelot of Africa), Lake Tana and the breathtaking Simien Mountains National Park.

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South Africa’s Wild Coast

South Africa’s Wild Coast (Transkei) is fascinating. How many places in the world can you find cows relaxing on sandy beaches? Wild Coast is a stretch along South Africa’s Eastern Cape’s Northern Coastline. Here you can explore the Xhosa local culture and the natural beauty of South Africa. If you can spare the time, linger a little longer here. Hiking is a good way to soak in the natural beauty of the Wild Coast. There are beautiful seaside villages you can visit as you explore the Wild Coast. Start from East London and head towards Port Edward, South Africa.

Flying into South Africa
Cape Town International Airport (CPT) is the main gateway to South Africa. Since South Africa is in the Southern Hemisphere, the seasons will be opposite of the Northern Hemisphere. So for an example, Christmas will be in the Summer just like Australia! So if you are coming from the USA in December, pack for the Summer! If you live the Northern Hemisphere, you may consider South Africa as a good winter getaway.

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Georgia, The Hidden Gem of the Caucasus!

The country Georgia is located in the Caucasus. Caucasus is the region between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. Georgia has a rich Christian history. Both Armenia and Georgia are the only Christian countries in this part of the world. You will find some ancient Christian monasteries in both neighboring Armenia and Georgia. A branch of the Silk Road went through Georgia. Georgia has the most diverse grape varieties in the world. Some consider Georgia and the Caucasus, the birthplace of wine.

Tbilisi International Airport (TBS) is the gateway to mountainous Georgia. Tbilisi is a modern city with a lot to offer. From Tbilisi you can launch your trip to rest of the country. You can explore everything from cave cities to ancient churches while enjoying some lovely Georgian cuisine, hospitality and their wine culture. You should try the Georgian Supra (feast). Supra is a multi course meal with multiple wine toasts.

Georgia is truly a hidden gem in the Caucasus and has so much to offer! The people are warm and friendly. Georgian hospitality is hard to beat!

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The New Old Silk Road

The Old Silk Road is being revived with modern infrastructure and technology. The New Old Silk Road is being built and extended from places like Shenzhen, China (Silicon Valley of China) to Duisburg, Germany (strategic river harbor with access to the Atlantic). Now you can travel on paved roads and high speed trains instead of the camels of old on China’s New Belt and Road. Marco Polo would be impressed!

Uzbekistan
However it is still the ancient charm of places like Bukhara, Khiva, Tashkent, Samarkand, Uzbekistan that draws tourists to retrace the steps of ancient travelers on the Silk Road. Ideas, food, goods and culture were exchanged between the Far East and the West on the old Silk Road. You could say this was the “interstate” or the “internet” of the old. Things sure moved more slowly then. Timur or Tamerlane of the Mongol Empire invested in building up Samarkand which is now in Uzbekistan. Amazing cities on the old Silk Road!

Nowruz (new day) marking the beginning of Spring is a good time to visit to soak in the Uzbek culture and warm hospitality. Enjoy some Uzbek Plov (Lamb Pilaf) and Samarkand bread.

Fly Uzbekistan Airways to Tashkent International Airport (TAS) which is the largest airport in Kazakhstan. You can get to Samarkand via train from Tashkent.

Kazakhstan
Almaty, Kazakhstan is another one of those cities that has grown and thrived! Imagine what the travelers on the Old Silk Road would have felt when they saw those beautiful mountains! In modern Almaty, Kazakhstan, you can find both the Russian Orthodox Ascension Cathedral and the Muslim Central Mosque. You can also try some great Central Asian cuisine influenced by the Great Steppe and nomadic life. You can try some Kazakh Cuisine such as Beshbarmak and Sirne.

You can fly into the Almaty International Airport (ALA) to begin your journey.

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The Romantic Danube

Europe is certainly blessed with beautiful rivers. The Danube River starts in the Black Forest of Germany and flows into the Black Sea. It flows through 10 countries making it a major water highway. Some major cities on the Danube River include Vienna (Austria), Bratislava (Slovakia), Budapest (Hungary)and Belgrade (Serbia).

Wachau Valley
The Wachau Valley about 1 hour West of Vienna, Austria is surely a romantic part of the Danube River. There are beautiful vineyards and castles along the Wachau Valley. There is so much history along the banks of the Danube. For an example, Richard the Lionhearted was imprisoned in Dürnstein Castle. Dürnstein Castle lies along the Danube River and is worth a trip from Vienna, Austria. Melk, Austria is another place that you should visit. The Melk Baroque Benedictine monastery is a treasure. It houses a large library and beautiful frescoes. River cruises run between Melk and Krems. Take a romantic river cruise along the Wachau Valley and take back lovely memories of this journey.

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Summer Beach Christmas in Australia’s Queensland

Australia is sure blessed with some of the best beaches in the world! Coming from the Northern Hemisphere, we usually think of December as winter. But it is just the opposite in Australia. Well it is Summer in Down Under!

Getting There
Fly into Brisbane International Airport (BNE), Queensland Australia for a beach Christmas. There are plenty of things to do right in Brisbane for Christmas. Brisbane is a modern bustling city. A good base to launch your exploration of Australia. You should check out either the Sunshine Coast or the Gold Coast Beaches. Head north from Brisbane to explore the Sunshine Coast of Australia. Or head south to the Gold Coast area of Australia.

Food
Christmas food is influenced both by the Summer weather and culture. Enjoy some yummy seafood. You can enjoy great BBQ and prawns. Not to mention English Christmas goodies like English Christmas Pudding and Mince Pie. You got to try the Aussie Pavlova Meringue dessert.

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St Lucia Christmas Little Sweden USA

St Lucia Christmas Bethany Lutheran Lindsborg USA
St Lucia Christmas Bethany Lutheran Lindsborg USA

Christmas in Lindsborg comes alive with Swedish traditions. St. Lucia Christmas is celebrated all day mid December. Young girls dressed up in white march in procession into the Bethany Lutheran Church. The procession is a community event with singing and beautiful music.
The procession is led by a young girl dressed as St. Lucia with candles on her head.

St Lucia Christmas Bethany Lutheran Lindsborg USA
St Lucia Christmas Bethany Lutheran Lindsborg USA

There are also beautiful Swedish folk dances performed by both young and old during the day in Lindsborg, Kansas, USA.

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Romanian Cuisine

The great thing about travelling is you get to savor all types of tasty food on the road. Romania with its various cultural influences has some really tasty food. If you are paying in US Dollars, you can eat like a king.

Cultural Influences
Germans (Saxons) settled the Transylvania region when it was under Hungarian rule. You can visit many of the Saxon castles and even fortified churches that protected against invasions. The Turks, Austrians, Greeks and Romans have also left their influence on the food of Romania. Each region in Romania borders different countries such as Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria, Moldova and Ukraine. Some of the Romanian Cuisine is closely related to food eaten in the Balkans.

Popular Romanian Food
Try some tasty sausages Mici or Mititei which is like a blend between a kebab and a regular sausage. Grilled lamb is quite popular here. Various stewed meat dishes with a fusion of locally grown spices create an exotic flavor. Sarmale or stuffed cabbage rolls with meat is a very popular dish eaten in this part of the world. You can also try some very unique cheeses including sheep cheese. Sibiu, Transylvania is a great foodie destination to visit.

Rural Romania
The pastoral lands in Romania offer some really good organic grown food. Even Prince Charles sources organic Transylvanian honey (for his Highgrove Royal Gardens) from Saschiz, Romania! If you have time, take a trip to rural Romania. You can get to experience Eastern Europe at a slower pace and go back in time. Wild flowers still grow in the Romanian meadows like it used to around the rest of Europe.

Getting to Romania
If you are flying from the USA, Delta, KLM, Air France and Alitalia can connect your flight to Bucharest Henri Coandă (OTP) International Airport. The Sky Team Airline partners may connect the flights via their local airline hubs in their respective countries. From Bucharest (Bucuresti), Romania you can take a train to Brasov, Transylvania to explore the castles and the fortified churches.

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Germany’s Romantic Road

Germany’s Romantic Road between Wurzburg and Fussen is a destination in itself. There are several castles on this route to be explored. So take time and soak in the beautiful German towns and villages.

Rothenburg
Spend time in towns like Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Rothenburg is located in the Franconia region of Bavaria. Experience the German culture at its best.

Fussen
Most travellers will remember the Neuschwanstein Castle. Neuschwanstein Castle is known as Schloss Neuschwanstein in German. Neuschwanstein is best explored from Fussen, Bavaria. Fussen can be reached by train from Munich. This is a very beautiful part of Bavaria. Fussen borders Austria and is lush with the Alpine scenery.

Flying into Frankfurt am Main, Germany
If you are starting in the North from Wurzburg, best to fly into Frankfurt am Main International (FRA) Airport. Rent a car and you can make your own travel plans to get to Wurzburg.
You can also take a detour from the Romantic Road and drive down to the Romantic Mid Rhine area. The Mid Rhine area has a lot offer with beautiful castles between Mainz and Kobenlz. Best to explore the Rhine River by boat. Slow down and enjoy the views.

Flying into Munich, Bavaria, Germany
If you are starting in the South from Fussen, fly into Munich International (MUC) Airport. Munich is also known as Munchen in German. If you are travelling during Christmas, the Munich Airport hosts its own Christmas Markets.

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