Lunch on the Top of Berlin’s Reichstag


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It is not an everyday occurrence in my life to have lunch at famous restaurants and to top it all, on the top of the German Bundestag (the Parliament), the Reichstag.

The lunch was exceptional and truly unforgettable. They serve traditional German cuisine with a modern twist to perhaps cater to an ever evolving multi-cultural palate. Reservation is  a must and recommended. There were a lot of walk-in guests but ended up with sad faces.

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As the Reichstag requires advance reservation for all visitors, the Kaefer Dachgartenrestaurant Berlin does the same thing.  The lunch was a bit pricey when it comes to German standards but the experience is truly worth every penny.

The moment I sat and looked at the sumptuous meal served in front of me, I just can’t help but look outside, as my thoughts came rushing from the nearby Brandenburg Gate, where so many people were taking pictures of one another. Then the beautiful dome of the Reichstag, designed by the genius architect Sir Norman Foster also came into my reverie. The walk to the top of the building while taking in the beauty of Berlin was truly an unforgettable sight. And like what I have said, to top it all was this mouth-watering lunch at the Dome.

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It is truly a must for anyone visiting Berlin to see and visit the German Bundestag. Not only that the building was so historical but also a very important tool in understanding the German culture- in particular how the city of Berlin came into such a weird and mind-boggling separation, brought about by wars and conflict that marred the nation.

The lunch was truly spectacular. You may skip having lunch here and just do it somewhere else but it was all worth it. I guess, I have overemphasized this too much. But perhaps because the whole ordeal of listening to Berlin’s reunification after such turbulent years was enough to put the appetite back into my system and only look at the past as a way of understanding the future.

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Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow


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just sharing some pics which were taken at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow, Scotland. Entrance to the museum is free (which I love the most) and it’s one of the most visited places in Glasgow, a premier museum which houses the most number of Impressionist paintings in the UK, third outside of France (next to the famed Hermitage in St Petersburg) and the biggest collection of arms and armour in the country.

But since I am a Salvador Dali fan, I am posting a rather controversial painting of the master and one of the top 3 reasons why Kelvingrove is famous in the country. Controversial because at that time, a group of artists in the city of Glasgow totally opposed to the idea of purchasing an expensive painting where the region was beset with financial difficulties. Besides, they were not really impressed with this this Gaudi’s painting. But to date. the Gaudi’s Christ of St John of the Cross is the prime reason why so many visitors are coming to visit the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.

This is the Christ of Saint John of the Cross. A confusing title, the first time I’ve heard of it, but simply an inspired idea of an old sketch/drawing by St John of the Cross, a 16th century priest, who along with Sta Teresa of Avila, founded the Carmelites…Salvador Dali was inspired to have his own version of the crucifixion, following a series of dreams that propelled him to paint this masterpiece

Christ of St John of the Cross

Another crowd-drawing painting is a rather modern one (with a hint of a Renaissance into it), a painting by an imprisoned soldier in area called Lafaruk in Somalia. The painting was made out of mud and whatever materials he could gather and created this jaw dropping masterpiece. It is now called as the Lady of Lafaruk. On either side are angels and one should notice the prison camp incorporated in the painting.

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Laif Lafaruk

Am Back….(Feast of St James, the Apostle)


This is a rather short entry. After several months of not updating my blog for so many mundane reasons, I have now decided to come back and simply update it as much as I could.

There were times that I wanted to delete this site and not blog anymore. But I feel guilty and sad. After all, I am truly blessed with so many amazing travels and it would be a disgrace not share it to the world. Who knows, one or two people out there would be inspired by this blog?

Yesterday. July 25th was the Feast Day of St James. It was on my plan to do the Camino this year but things changed. Trust me, if I could use God as my witness, he could certainly affirm of my desire to do the Camino or the Walk to St James. Again, and I promise by next year before the Feast Day of doing my Camino.

Lastly, I would like to convey my condolences to families of those who perished in the tragic train crash in Santiago de Compostela.

Pictures taken approx. 3 1/2 years ago at Santiago de Compostela.

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Naples, Italy; A Christmas Capital of Italy?


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Naples is not only famous for its gastronomic treats but also for its undying art of making nativity scenes or as they call it here a Neapolitan presepi. Legend has it that St Francis of Assisi had requested to have a presepe made in this old neighborhood called San Gregorio Armeno. That was as early as the 13th century. Since then, this art of making nativity scenes had flourished in Naples, making the city as the undisputed queen of nativity scenes and the place to be during this holiday season.

 

One particular street in this old historical center of Naples became a worldwide phenomenon because of this nativity scenes. This long narrow street called Via San Gregorio Armeno had been the center of this art and not only during Christmas but during the whole year round. It is such a delight walking and browsing at different stores portraying either a trattoria kind of nativity scenes or anything an artist could think of.

 

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Via San Gregorio Armeno has been ranked as one of the 10 places you should see here in Naples. Not only during the Holiday season but anytime of the year. It does not only offer you a unique look at this century-old art of nativity making but also offers a glimpse of what Naples was like and perhaps what everybody thinks of the city-  that authenticity beyond the control of modern technology. You will understand once you see visit this old neighborhood. It’s just simply a step back in time. And with all these Nativity Scenes all around you, some say that Naples is the Christmas capital of Italy.

 

With only a couple of days left before Christmas,  I remember this particular street Via San Gregorio Armeno. Not so many places are into this kind of art. It may not be as grand or fabulous as other nativity scenes in the world but its uniqueness comes with unwavering zeal that survives the test of time. That I guess is the simple outlook on how we should view this Yuletide season. It’s always the simplicity of things that gives the most joy.

 

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Wishing you love, peace and tons of beautiful moments this Yuletide season!

 

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Dublin, Ireland; 10 Rules of Merry Ploughboy Irish Pub (Must Read)


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When in Dublin, one must pay a visit to any pubs out there. It is but a mortal sin if you come here just to sleep at night as the city comes alive as soon as the sun sets. The place offers a one-of-a-kind nightlife that so often becomes an envy of other European cities. That’s why an invasion of Irish pubs in many European key cities is one single proof that Dubliners or Irish in general know how to have some fun.

Before we tackle the historical sights, let me just write a few words about the Merry Ploughboy Pub. This is one awesome place that you should not miss out on whenever you are on a business trip or vacation in Dublin. It is perfectly located outside the city that somehow gives you an impression of what an Irish countryside is all about.

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As I was reading the history of the place I couldn’t help but laugh at its subtle Irish wit and humor. It has been said that before America won its independence, before the Act of Union between Great Britain and Ireland and even before the French Revolution in 1789, this Public House has served as a gathering place among travelers or farmers who simply would love an after work drink. Today as the name suggests, this public house is a home to the Merry Ploughboys- Dublin’s renowned  traditional ballad group.

 

The 3 -hour song and dance show and over dinner extravaganza was something memorable to a non-Irish like me. It was a night full of revelry, dancing and singing. The House was packed of people from different walks of life and indeed reserve your place before you come here. It is no wonder why this place was awarded as Ireland’s Best Traditional Event!  It was just insanely hilarious and even after the show you feel somehow the night was just starting. This is what Dublin is all about! A tease, a place where you know that so-called F-U-N is just lurking behind the corner. So before we go to Dublin’s downtown in search of another action-packed pub, let me tell you first the 10 rules of this Public House. These rules will serve as your introduction to this whole Irish Pub culture and perhaps to your beerful and bellyful life…

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The 10 Rules of the Merry Ploughboy Pub

  1. Buying some-one a drink is five times better than a handshake.
  2. If some-one offers to buy you a drink, do not upgrade.
  3.  Persons drinking a pint of Guiness before it has fully settled will be inmmediately barred.
  4. Anyone on stage or behind the bar is 50% better looking.
  5.  Telling lies is unacceptable, you may however grossy exaggerate.
  6. If there is ever any confusion, the fuller beer is yours.
  7. If you hesitate more than 3 seconds after getting the barman’s attention, you do not deserve a drink.
  8. If you buy a woman a drink and she refuses, she does not like you.
  9. If you buy a woman a drink and she accepts, she still may not like you.

10. Girls hang out, apply make-up, and have long talks in the bathroom. Men do not!

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And before I proceed to my next (favorite) topic which is beer, let me tell you first that Dublin has just been named by Lonely Planet as the top 5 places in the world to celebrate New Year’s Eve.  This is a just a proof that this city has so much to offer and what more if you could only stay up through the wee hours of the morning.

 

Cheers mate!

 

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Grimsey, Iceland- Stepping into the Arctic Circle


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There is a sense of spiritual awakening while watching birds wander freely in their natural habitat. This is not something I love doing but later on discovered the magic of bird watching. And while spending some time in Akureyri, the second largest city of  Iceland, we’ve decided to take a day off and fly to Grimsey island.  Maybe it would be fun since part of the idea was to set foot on the arctic circle.

Since the idea came up, I couldn’t be more restless as I was at that time. I started flipping some magazines and preparing myself for any eventuality. Like what apparel to wear and whether I should do three or four layers of clothes. Nearly but not quite blindfolded, I immersed myself on reading about Grimsey on the web. Some were saying how many birds the island has and how human beings are treated as the silent minority. If there were 100 fishermen, over a million birds are present on the island. That alone is something out of this world or rather, out of my world! Grimsey could be like the size of my native town in Eastern Samar and the arctic circle keeps on cutting across the island and moving away every year.

 

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I’m no expert to explain this movement but as of press time, the Arctic Circle, 66 degrees,33”17’ runs across the island near the airstrip. And a greater part of the island lies at the south of the Arctic Circle. Too much information sometimes could ruin a trip so I decided to stop all these readings. All I remember is that it’s an island and almost 40 kilometers away from the main island of Iceland and I don’t think sleeping on the plane will be an option on a 30minute ride. Did I say ride? Forgive me, I meant flight and no ferry boat as I’ve heard how rough the waters were at that time. I love flights anyway. That would be fine.

The first thing one will notice upon stepping into the island of Grimsey is how unbelievably quiet the place is. We just landed on what I could deduce as the shortest runway I’ve seen in my life. It was surrounded with a typical metal fence just like a simple garage at the back of one’s house. I hugged myself so tight and mentally prepared my body for what could be a struggle for the next 4 hours hours or so. My lips already started breaking off and my body couldn’t even move as cold air kept on hammering us.

 

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We were greeted by our guide who comes to the island once a week to teach some young girls and boys. I looked around and counted roughly 15 houses along the cliff. A beautiful colored lighthouse was visible on the other end and a small church too. It was a small community built along the sides of the island. Grimsey seemed to have been elevated from a ground thus forming a perfectly carved cliffs along its jagged borders. These cliffs made it possible for arctic terns and puffins to cultivate and thrive. As the island stretches further down south, the more flatter it becomes making it possible to harbor boats and small fishing vessels.

I was given a metal stick by my guide to protect myself from sudden onslaughts of arctic terns. They hated the idea that humans looked so tall from the ground and keep on testing whether it’s something they can bully around. Thus, humans need to dock every so often and this became a habit of every islanders. And just like any territory; the puffins and terns control the major part of the island and indeed birds in general control the air, land and water of Grimsey.

 

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While standing on the cliff and taking countless of pictures of puffins, I paused for a while and looked at the distant horizon. The clouds were moving so fast and the cold mass was added to a rather uninviting horizon. I felt alone and sad. And no matter how colorful the puffins were, I wasn’t sure if I could live here even for a month. Maybe because I was alone and part of my personality is to share and am not sure if the puffins could reciprocate that tender emotion. And out of nowhere, a sudden admiration grew from my heart for all the locals here in Grimsey. For the tenacity to endure the cold weather and making a living from fishing out there on the wild, cold sea- that to me was a feat or even a life not for the faint of heart.

The island of Grimsey has taught me that life in its simplest form is indeed a touch of paradise.  It’s not surprising indeed that some people go out and travel to far flung areas to find themselves. For our soul need to be aligned again with nature to find its inner voice. With all the seemingly unwelcoming traits the island has, one should really find a way to find true happiness in the most desolate of places and only then it will feel invigorated  and reborn.

 

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I can only surmise that bird watching is an activity for the soul. The human mind will not understand this placid hobby but the soul does. And bird watching couldn’t be more fitting in an island like Grimsey. For not only it’s  birds’ piece of heaven but for humans too. Welcome to Grimsey! Welcome to Iceland!

 

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Sirince, Turkey: Safe Haven according to Mayan Believers


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Tourists have been flocking to a small village in Turkey called Sirince as the rest of world welcomes the “21st of December” – the day as foretold by the ancient Mayan Hieroglyps would be the end of the world. Sirince is a small agricultural village famous for its wines, olive oil, soaps and other beauty products. Indeed, anyone who visits Sirince will fall in-love with this former Greek village. It is different from the urban and fast-paced lifestyle of Kusadasi and Izmir but also has this so-called therapeutic silence; a place of relaxation and rejuvenation. It is also said to be the ascension place of the Blessed Mother when she had stayed in the Bulbul mountains close to Ephesus.  With all these positive auras, qualities and stories; it is no wonder that believers and spiritualists associate Sirince as a safe haven against the impending end of the world.

 

Happy New Aztec era!!! 🙂

 

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