Monthly Archives: December 2013

Christmas Markets in Munich

Christmas markets are a significant part of the festive season in Germany and Munich is no exception. Advent is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful seasons in the city of Munich. When the first snowflakes swirl in the air, children start to build snowmen and the scent of mulled wine wafts through the streets. A stroll around any of the many markets in and around Munich is sure to get you in the Christmas spirit. Nestled only an hour away from the Bavarian Alps you can experience the buzz of the city at this time or combine your visit with some winter sports. Whatever you choose there is plenty to keep all the family entertained.

Munich holds its traditional Christmas Market from November 29th to December 24th 2013 on Marienplatz (St. Mary’s Square) in the center of Munich. Marienplatz boasts the largest Christmas market in the city . A massive fir Christmas tree is erected in front of the Rathaus (Town Hall) and strung with Christmas lights. Advent music is performed live every evening at 5.30 p.m. from the balcony of the Town Hall. It is a must to try the glühwein (warmed red-wine combined with cinnamon, sugar, oranges and cloves) while in Europe at Christmastime so go to the many vendors and purchase two mugs of of glüwein. You pay a deposit on the mug and take it with you to drink as you wander around the other stalls at the market. It tastes sort of like drinking raisin bread and is very warming indeed on a cold winter’s day!!

In Neuhauser Strasse, only a few steps from Marienplatz square, you will find what probably is Germany’s largest manger market. The authentic nativity scenes at this market are complete with lanterns for the mangers, fodder for the ox and donkey and gifts from the three Magi.

If you are after a little more of a party atmosphere then Wintertollwood is the place for you. The Theresienwiese comes alive in December with lively concerts, beautifully quirky crafts and plenty of ethnic foods from November 26th to December 31th.

Fun and festivities can be found at The Munich Airport Center’s highly popular winter market. It’s in full swing for the holiday season with 50 outdoor market stalls, a large ice skating rink (skates are gratis) and Bavarian curling.

Decorated with more than 400 Christmas trees, the market is located at the heart of the Munich Airport. For travelers arriving, departing or for those of you who have a layover, be sure to allow extra time for browsing the stalls while sipping mulled wine. For locals from the neighboring communities, parking is free for five hours.There is live entertainment with a 40 bands and musical acts from the region. Each day, a different stage show appears, featuring rock, pop, blues and jazz genres. As for food, a variety of treats is available ranging from Bavarian to Asian dishes. When sampling the mulled wine, try the Bavarian gluhwein or Swedish glogg. A children’s program includes baking, decorating a gingerbread house and creating holiday decorations.

 

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Christmas in London 2013

We may be a small country but we’re a great one too: the country of Shakespeare, Churchill, The Beatles, Sean Connery, Harry Potter, David Beckham’s right foot… David Beckham’s left foot, come to that.

– Hugh Grant in Love Actually

And, what can be the best time to come to London than Christmas. Plan to spend Christmas in London. There’s plenty of Christmas fun and frolics to keep kids, young and old entertained, as the atmosphere of a lovely Christmas is in the air. There is much to explore and experience. Following are the exciting things to do in Christmas in London:

Westminster Abbey:

Pack inside one of London’s most famous landmarks for an old-fashioned service to take you right through to Christmas Day. Westminster Abbey has been at the center of royal and religious life in Britain since the time of William the Conqueror who was crowned here on Christmas Day 1066, following the successful Norman invasion of the British Isles. More recently, it was where Prince William and Catherine Middleton chose to get married. It’s easy to lose sight of what Christmas is all about in the sea of commercialization, but sitting in the majestic history of the Abbey’s nave will help remind you of the religious message. These awe-inspiring surroundings provide a striking backdrop for an evening of lessons and carols. Best to book in for the Services of Lessons & Carols on Monday 23rd December at 6pm and Christmas Eve at 4pm which are especially popular and require (free) tickets.

Tower of London:

It is the season to be jolly and where better to spend this festive season than at the Tower of London. This medieval fortress will be alive over the Christmas period with an array of events to keep the whole family entertained. From Christmas festivities with the king to ice skating in the moat there is no better time to visit this historic royal palace.

Don’t miss the unique opportunity to skate in the Tower of London’s 1000 year old moat. Spectacular in the winter morning sun or beautifully illuminated after dark. Join in the heart of the City with colleagues, clients, friends or family for a special experience on the ice this Christmas.

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland 2013

Hyde Park gets glammed up once again with its annual Christmassy additions. The park will be kitted out with rides and attractions, including a Giant Observation Wheel and two circuses, plus the famous ice rink. The market sells decorative sweets and festive treats as well as traditional German crafts and lashings of glühwein.

Fleet Street Carols

Welcome Christmas in a traditional style with carols – led by Director of Music Robert Jones and the St Bride’s Choir – at the wonderful ‘journalists’ church’ on Fleet Street. There will be a Christmas tree and candles, as well as mulled wine and mince pies.

Ice Skating at The Natural History Museum

With its grand Christmas tree, festive music and Christmas market stalls, ice skating at The Natural History Museum is certain to get you in the festive spirit. Grab a group of friends and combine a day of history with a night of fun on the ice.

Meet Santa at London Zoo- Regent’s Park

Ever fancied getting up close and personal with Rudolph or Dasher or Blitzen? Well now you can at the reindeer lodge at Regent’s Park. And finish off a magical day with a trip around Santa’s grotto. Also included in the Meet Santa experience, kids will be able to lend a hand at the daily Keeper’s Little Helpers sessions, where they’ll be preparing treats and presents for the Zoo’s animals before settling down for storytelling with Mother Christmas.

Half way down Oxford Street you can take a right on to Regent Street and visit the legendary Hamleys toy shop. Join in the Christmas magic by having Breakfast, Brunch, Lunch, Tea, High Tea or Dinner with Father Christmas! Father Christmas’ Elves will welcome guests, making them feel extra special and entertaining them throughout! There will be scrumptious food and Christmas activities to enjoy. Each little guest will have an individual chat with Father Christmas, hearing tales of Lapland and magical stories of Christmas. Then, when it’s time for Father Christmas to leave, his special guests will receive a small gift to take home.

The Nutcracker – Royal Opera House

Visit one of the best-loved ballet productions to really get you in the mood. The Nutcracker comes back to the capital every year and tells the story of Clara, who creeps downstairs one Christmas Eve to find that her toys have come to life.

Cruise down the River Thames on Christmas Day and see London at its most peaceful! Gliding past top London attractions, like the London Eye and Big Ben, you’ll experience the city free from its normal crowds. A truly elegant way to spend Christmas, the cruise takes you along the river from Westminster Pier to Greenwich and then back again while you relax in style with a sumptuous 3-course Christmas lunch.

Escape the hustle and bustle of London on Boxing Day — the hectic shopping day after Christmas — and take a day trip to Warwick Castle, Stratford-upon-Avon and Oxford to immerse yourself in England’s rich beauty, history and culture. On this Boxing Day tour, travel back to medieval times as you explore Warwick Castle and then visit Stratford-upon-Avon to see the home of William Shakespeare and enjoy a traditional English lunch. Journey through the rolling hills of the Cotswolds and finish with a tour of historic Oxford, home to world-famous Oxford University and a major filming site for the Harry Potter films.

 

Slum-children in Dharavi, Mumbai learn English Alphabets

 

Last summer, I traveled to Mumbai in India for a couple of months, and I was troubled by the children who beg for money. Do I give them money or food or neither? If I give money, exploitative adults may take it. My family regularly contributes to Indian charities, but that is small relief in these miserable plight.

Your desire to help a child in distress is commendable, whichever of those options you choose. But I chose a different road to make those children self-reliable. Those Children were illiterate so I thought of teaching them the English Language. The challenge was to begin from the base that is teaching them alphabets.

I love exposing young children to letters! It is so fun to see them find letters in their environment and connect letters they know in their name. As we all know, letters and letters sounds are the foundation to our English language so identifying letters and the sounds they make is very important.

To say if only I can say my School was under a tree in Dharavi, the slum in Mumbai. Dharavi is the largest slum in Asia and one of the largest slums in the world. Danny Boyle’s Oscar-winning movie “Slumdog Millionaire” was shot as well in this slum. The railway station was very close to the area. During teaching, we used to get the train sound.

Most of the children who came to learn the English language were basically child labor- factory-workers and rag-pickers. To make alphabet learning not a struggle but fun I got some activities. The activities included Letter Picture Cards, Large letters (for creating letter art), Letter Poem, Letter Snack and Sensory Ideas, Letter Book, Dot paint letters, Letter Flipbook, Letter Hunt, Letter Puzzles, Letter Lacing, Letter Size Up, Letter Writing, Letter Match-Up and Letter Sort.

The children found learning English alphabets extremely interesting. These children were amazing learners. They are great fun to be with. Given the opportunity, they too can experience an incredible India and participate in the exercise of nation building. Education can transform them from dependents to driving forces. In the words of H. H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and I quote “Education is a vehicle for transformation or metamorphosis of the self and an aid to the growth of economy.”

 

Romantic Rich Herzlich Zurich Trip

Rich Zurich Trip
Rich Zurich Trip

My friend betrayed and cancelled the last minute plan. But it was comfortable traveling alone. Finally I boarded on a fine coach for Zurich, the cosmopolitan yet cultural city. My seat was adjacent to a hunk. OMG! We exchanged names and soon realized the fact that we could only use gestures and smiles. Roger did not know English and i was poor at German. Going through my android smartphone and came to know about a language learning app that made things easy. I downloaded the app and looked in for German language translator. Greeting Roger in his language surprised him.

I showed him the amazing app and he downloaded it too. We could now exchange at least basic stuff. Roger told me that he had come to pay a visit to his uncle’s place and thought of exploring Zurich. Roger was more than excited when he came to know that i was also there for the same purpose. Not to a surprise, we decided to have fun together. Attraction was natural. We decided to visit five places.

Beautiful Zurich Heart
Beautiful Zurich Heart

Rietberg Museum

The Rietberg Museum is a paramount cultural institution in Zurich. Rietberg Museum comprised of Non-European art. I was just about to trip off the train, when Roger yelled, “achten”. According to the app it meant careful. And i replied, “I am fine”. He too scrolled his phone screen and gave a little smile. It was a sweet beginning of a yet sugary journey.

Zoo

With over 3,000 specimens, zoo is a great place in the city for education and fun. We clicked a number of photographs and also shared our Facebook accounts. Snake section was very fascinating. He exclaimed “schön” which means beautiful.

Fraumünster

The old church had exotic glass design work by Marc Chagall, reflecting the rich heritage of the city. We silently prayed and then went for lunch. The menu was in English. Using the help of lingual app, he decided to have pizza. We enjoyed pizza and pasta with cocktail.

Lake Promenade

Zurich has a lake and lush green scenery galore. All of a sudden Roger told, “kann ich deine Hand halten?”, it means can i hold your hand? We took a walk hand in hand by the lake. The feeling was enticing . It seemed as if butterflies were flying in my stomach.

Lindenhof

It was the time of dusk and the romance was oozing. Our last destination was Lindenhof. Lindenhof is the historic home of a Roman castle and fortress. It consists of a hill and section of old Zurich.

Love in Zurich
Love in Zurich

My flight was at 2:00 A.M. We would part after that, not willing to tell goodbye. He dropped me to the airport. Boarding on the plane, i saw the last message on my cell, it was Roger’s. It said, “ich liebe dich”. Our short love story had begun through apps, shortly i replied, “ich liebe dich auch”. Understand the emotions, it does not require any language translator.

My Holy Journey- Christmas in Jerusalem

This was my first Christmas in Jerusalem and I was all alone. My only companion to say was my travelogue. Perhaps, my travelogue was witness of my journey to the holy land. Celebrating Christmas in Jerusalem is one-of-a-kind experiences.

Different from the fanatics of the bustling city, recalling my exquisite, emotional and spiritual experience, I got to the airport at 8am for my 11:30am flight to Tel Aviv. I arrived at Tel Aviv airport around 7pm on December 22, 2012 and then took a taxi to Jerusalem.

On December 23, 2012, after breakfast drove up the Mount of Olives for a view of the Old City of Jerusalem. I walked down Jaffa Street and entered the Old City through New Gate. I just walked around without a plan, looking at the buildings and following the music that was playing all over the city.

Walking down the street, I came across two processions, one where they were singing Christmas carols and the second was of a young guy walking with a wooden cross and doing all the stations of the cross. The stations is the whole route Jesus walked on the way to his crucifixion.

I made a stop at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. As I entered, I was greeted by the stone of Unction where the anointing and wrapping of Christ’s body after death took place.

People were kneeling down and praying around the stone, a priest knelt down and poured some red oil on to the stone rubbing it in and praying while I was standing there. People actually came and packed candles and icons on to the stone and then removing it as it is now blessed!

Golgotha, the spot where the crucifix is believed to have stood, was inside the church. Downstairs is a place where they believed Jesus was buried had long queue to enter. The church has beautiful lanterns hanging all over!! I stopped off at Damascus Gate to admire its magnificence.

On December 24, 2012, the Christmas Eve, I enjoyed a late breakfast to be rested for midnight mass in Bethlehem. In the afternoon, I drove to Bethlehem to visit the Church of the Nativity and Shepherds’ Fields. Had dinner in Bethlehem – “Jerusalem Dinner” (fish, beef roast, bread in round loaves, butter, honey, green & black olives, and dates – essentially those kinds of food they might have eaten back then). After dinner, I was on site for the midnight mass.

Christian pilgrims and tourists from around the world had converged on Bethlehem for Christmas. Celebrations culminated in Midnight Mass at the 1,700  year  old Church of the Nativity, built on the spot where it is believed Jesus was born. Midnight mass in Bethlehem celebrated to mark the birth of the Savior of the World is a moving and beautiful spectacle. Though it is televised all across the world, being there is an amazing feeling.

Midnight, Merry Christmas! Joyous crowds and tourists  brimming with joy. Celebrations all over! I was back to Jerusalem overnight.

On December 25, 2012, after breakfast, I entered the Old City of Jerusalem. Visited the Church of St. Anne and the Pools of Bethesda. Walked along the Stations of the Cross on the Via Dolorosa following. Viewed the Temple Mount. Visited Mount Zion, the Hall of the Last Supper and Dormition Abbey.

Overnight, I was back to Jerusalem. Getting into my hotel room, I put down my wonderful experience in my travelogue. This blog presents my journey which touches upon my faith.

Celebrating Christmas in Nazareth

Santa's Christmas

The whole year we wait  eagerly for the holy noise of the holy bells, the twinkling stars on the Christmas trees and of course, for the soul in the red coat.  As children, we all wait for the festival to have our gifts from the kind Santa. The darling lyrics, Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way..”, even today makes me curious to meet the Santa. Yes, the same Santa who is supposed to come and shower gifts on us while we sleep. But I want to meet that holy figure with open eyes. Sometimes I tried to write a letter to Santa for sending the invitation but confused as to where should I post it.

Now when the Christmas is almost around the corner my childhood desire has started re-shaping. On the eve of Christmas, we generally call our friends, have a get-together and enjoy the day with our holy feasts but this time a soul is adamant to have the holy ambiance. I know that it is not a genuine demand but I have an idea to keep my self quite close, even closer to this holy ambiance.

Why not celebrate the festival exactly at the place where Christ was brought up for the sake of redemption of the humanity. Yes, I am talking about the Nazareth, the place where the Gods son took the avatar. This place is known to have witnessed the 20 years of Christ’s life. The Nazareth village is venerated as the holiest place since it has witnessed the journey of the Holy family. Quite near to it is Jerusalem, where as a child, Jesus confused the theologians with his great knowledge about Torah.If you want you may visit this divine land too.

The White mosque here in the village regarded as the actual place that sheltered the parents of Jesus. The popular well here is now regarded as St. Mary’s Well. Yes, it is the same well used by Mother Mary to fill her jars. Not only this, you can also visit the White Mosque too. It is the same place where Annunciation took place and angel Gabriel informed Mother Mary that she is going to mother a divine child.

At  several points of time, we get to read or hear the accounts around Christ’s life but to actually visit the place where he played as a child, grew to manhood would indeed be a great experience. The very feeling of walking over the same mountain ranges, paths that was once walked on by a Messiah, would be like walking on the paths that he had shown to the humanity.

Visiting this place, a child could envisage himself as a companion of child Christ, while the elders could find themselves following Christs as His followers. Breathing in the same air that once Christ breathed might give you a feeling of being sanctified and redeemed since it was the whole endeavor of Christ. The hometown of Christ has many churches across its lanes that marks His footprints and invite us to bless us.

So, without much ado lets schedule our visit to this sacred place to wish the little “Nazarene” a very Happy Birthday! And who knows He might make me meet my Santa, as a return gift.

Christ-Birth

The Winter Universiade…

It all started when competitive games were taking its baby steps. Directed by Father of Modern Olympics “Baron Pierre de Coubertin”, the first of international sports were conducted by USA, France and Switzerland thereby giving a kick-start to the History Of Universiades (1905).

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The Winter Universiade 2013 stands second to none other than Olympic Games- the most reputed and victorious of all games. Promoting the strength of human spirit and nationalism, Winter Universiades are held every two years. And this time, the host country is none other than the Romantic Italy.

Trentino (where the universiade has been organised this year) is located in Northern Italy. It is said to be accompanied with high infrastructure facilities, holding experiences in hosting sports events as well. The city’s strength includes its hospitality, environmental quality of the territory and a University of its own. Many venues have been booked to host a variety of sport events at Trentino, Italy. Baselga Di Pine has been booked for speed skating and curling, Monte Bondone for Snowboarding and freestyle skiing, Pergine Valsugana for Ice Hockey, Val Di passa for Alpine Skiing to name a few. Gear yourself up for the ExpeDiction of venues and sports attractions.

Universiades are cultural sport events held every two years in different nations. The multi-sport event to be held this year in Trentino, Italy starts from 11th dec till 21st dec. The cultural programme is also familiar as XXVI Winter Universiade. Universiades are a mish-mash of university and olympiad outlining all multi-sport festivals underneath it. All international level games/events/programmes get conducted by FISU (International University Sports Federation).

The Universiades are seen as the biggest global multi-faceted festival for students/athletes across the globe. To seek that recognition on international level, all competitors get pumped up for 11 days of sport competitions. Cheers and roarings of 1,500-3,000 volunteers accompanied by more than 2,500 participants from 50 countries broadcasted by 100 TV Channels.

The programme currently includes 6 compulsory sports alongside 1-2 optional sports. The optional sports are chosen by the host country itself. The Winter Universiade 2013 Sports Programme grab hold of many Sports Activities. They are:

  • Alpine Skiing

  • Biathlon

  • Curling

  • Figure Skating

  • Freestyle Skiing

  • Cross country Skiing

  • Ice Hockey

  • Speed Skating

  • Skyjumping

  • Snowboarding

Out of hundred’s of international sport events taking place every year, Winter Universiade has it all. From Mountain World Bike Open Championship to Snowboard World Open Championship. So, why not take out some time from your schedules and catch ‘The 13th Winter Universiade’ at the natural environment of incomparable beauty- Trentino.